Born in Texas in 1962, Tom Ford went on to become arguably the most influential designer of the last decade. Having initially trained as an actor, he studied interior architecture at Parsons School of Design until 1986, and went on to take positions at Perry Ellis and Cathy Hardwick, before joining Gucci in 1990.
Ford was hired by Gucci's then creative director Dawn Mello as chief women's ready-to-wear designer, and later appointed design director. When, in 1994, Gucci was acquired by a Bahrain-based investment firm called Investcorp, Ford was promoted to creative director and moved to Milan with his partner, journalist Richard Buckley.
In his first year at the helm, he was credited with putting the glamour back into fashion introducing Halston-style velvet hipsters, skinny satin shirts and car-finish metallic patent boots. In 1995, he brought in French stylist Carine Roitfeld and photographer Mario Testino to create a series of new, modern ad campaigns for the company. By 1999, the house, which had been almost bankrupt when Ford joined, was valued at about $4.3 billion. "We didn't even have a photocopier at one stage," he admits. "We didn't have any paper." In 2000, Ford was named Best International Designer at the first VH1/Vogue Awards in New York.
After Gucci bought a controlling stake in Yves Saint Laurent, Ford was appointed creative director of YSL, too, and communications director of the house's ready-to-wear business, while continuing to design for Gucci. A mighty challenge certainly, but Ford was adamant he could keep the two labels distinct. "Historically, [Gucci] is Sophia Loren. Yves Saint Laurent is Catherine Deneuve. They're both sexy," he told British Vogue in February 2001. "It's just that Gucci is a little more obvious than Saint Laurent. The YSL woman might tie her boyfriend up and drip hot wax on him before they have sex, for instance. The Gucci woman is just going to have sex."
Ford believes that he owes his...