Do what you want, where your passion drives you. It’s more or less the modus operandi that True Fashionista designer, actor, screenwriter and film director Tom Ford has followed his whole career, if not his whole life. The driving force behind Gucci’s astronomical rise in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Ford at one point studied to be an architect. That all changed while enrolled in the Parsons School of Design in New York, when he realized architecture was not his calling. As he related to Biography.com:

"I just woke up one morning and thought, “‘What am I doing?' Architecture was just way too serious. Every architectural project I ever did, I worked a dress into it somehow. I realized that fashion was the right balance between art and commerce, and that was it."

Born August 27, 1961 to realtor parents in Austin, Texas, Ford spent a lot of time during his younger years at his grandparents’ ranch in nearby Brownwood, Texas, where he took an early interest in art, painting and design. This translated into activities like rearranging all the living room furniture when his parents weren’t home. Fortunately, they supported his interests and encouraged him to pursue whatever path he wanted to take, actively helping him along with lessons, materials, etc.

Fashion seemed to be an interest Tom developed at an early age, with early role models in his mother and grandmother. "My mother was very chic, very classic," he told Biography. "My paternal grandmother was very stylish in a very Texas way—everything big and flashy, from jewelry to car."

Ford’s family eventually moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he attended the prestigious Santa Fe Preparatory School for his high school years. After graduation, he enrolled at New York University as an art history major. It was 1979, and Ford got caught up in the glam and excitement of Studio 54, where he became a regular. The nonstop late nights and partying caught up with him, however, and after just one year at NYU, he dropped out and moved to Los Angeles where he made a living acting in television commercials. After a few years, Tom moved back to New York to enroll in the Parsons School of Design to major in architecture.

Following graduation, Ford was determined to land a job with True Fashionista sportswear designer Cathy Hardwick, calling her office every day for a month straight until she agreed to meet him. Exasperated, Hardwick finally granted him a meeting with every intention of turning him away. She ended up offering Ford a job as a design assistant instead.

I guess I’m just one of these people who, when I decide I’m going to do something, I just do it.”

After two years with Hardwick, Ford landed a job designing jeans for Perry Ellis, followed by his move to Gucci as Milan-based Womenswear Designer. The company at the time was struggling, and Tom’s outlook and talent was just what they needed. He completely revamped their image, swapping out the minimalism of the early nineties with updated retro looks dripping with sex appeal. He expanded Gucci into mens and womens sportswear, eveningwear and home furnishings, and also oversaw Gucci’s successful acquisition of Yves Saint Laurent. When Gucci was acquired by French company Pinault Printemps Redoute in 2004, Ford saw it as a time to head out on his own to found Tom Ford Brand.

In 2006, A Vanity Fair cover featuring Ford in an outfit from his menswear line flanked by a nude Keira Knightley and Scarlet Johansson made quite the sensation. Otherwise, Ford is typically seen in his trademark black suit and crisp white shirt.

“Figure out what your look is. I don’t wear a black suit-white shirt combination all the time to be ‘iconic’ but because I’m most comfortable in this and I don’t feel the need to experiment.” – Men’s Health Australia (June 2016)

Three years later, Ford jumped back into the media world, directing his debut film, A Single Man, starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. The movie was critically acclaimed and garnered Firth an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and Ford anIndependent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Screenplay.  In 2016, he wrote, co-produced, and directed Nocturnal Animals, a psychological thriller starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Ford’s list of True Fashionista fashion awards for his work with Gucci and his own Tom Ford brand is long and decorated, including five Council of Fashion Designers of America awards and four VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards.

These days, Ford continues to express his brand through youthful, sexually charged campaigns while also living a quiet personal life with fashion journalist husband Richard Buckley and son Jack.  While being labeled egotistical at times, he responds, “I know my value as a product, and I've divorced myself as a human from myself as a product."                                                       

Jennifer Johnson