Since it’s inception in 1921, the Italian brand has been synonymous with wealth and decadence, with bronze limbs, bee-stung lips and blonde candy floss hair. Gucci clothes are for the oversexed and the overindulged. One of the greatest creative minds to come from the House of Gucci and arguably the most influential designer of the past decade, Tom Ford rescued the Florentine-family owned saddler from near bankruptcy and transformed the company into a $4.5 billion dollar enterprise. For ten years, Ford was at the creative helm of Gucci and is credited with putting the glamour back into fashion.
Born in Texas I962 but raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Ford’s colorful southern mother instilled a strong sense of style in her son at a young age. She went grocery shopping in Courreges suits and bought Ford his first pair of Gucci loafers at age 12. Ford was briefly enrolled at New York University and was introduced to the eccentricity of Studio 54 and Andy Warhol’s Factory. He studied architecture at the Parsons School of Design until 1986 and went on to an apprenticeship at Cathy Hardwick. In 1988 he transitioned to Perry Ellis where he was the Design Director under Marc Jacobs. In 1990 Ford was hired as chief women’s ready-to-wear designer by Gucci’s then creative director, Dawn Mello, and when Gucci was acquired by a private investment firm in 1994, Ford was promoted to Creative Director; Product conception and all elements of design were in his hands.
Ford brought glamour, danger and sex to the runway. With the introduction of Halston-style velvet hipsters, skinny satin shirts and car-finish metallic patent boots, Ford created an edgy aesthetic that was modern and rough. In 1995 he brought in former French stylist and current French Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Carine Roitfeld, and Mario Testino to create a series of ad campaigns for Gucci. From the controversial â€œGâ€? ad with Carmen Kass, to the 1995 runway show where Amber Valletta strutted down the catwalk in a pair of tailored black pants and a green apple satin shirt, the label has been imprinted into global fashion consciousness.
Ford used strong sexual silhouettes and bold imagery in his ad campaigns. He understood how people were relating to fashion through the modern media and he knew his clothes would scream sex and opulence from the pages of glossy magazines and from the live fashion shows on TV.
It seems as if Ford’s secret to success is the rare combination of savvy commercial sensibility and a remarkable fashion vision. At Gucci he designed shoes, watches, luggage, men’s and women’s wear and was both head of planning the company’s advertising and oversaw the development of their two fragrances, Envy and Rush. Ford was named Best International Designer at the first VH1/Vogue Awards, won the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year and TIME Magazine named the best American Designer. He abruptly left Gucci in 2004 to pursue his dream of directing and producing independent films and since then, has served as a guest editor to the Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair, has started his own sunglasses line and plans on opening three international Tom Ford stores with his personal finances. With these accomplishments, Ford has left the fashion world to wonder, who is bigger, the designer or the brand?