Tom Ford, Fashion Designer and Director

The American designer Tom Ford made his mark as the head designer of Gucci, transforming the brand in the late 1990s from a passé European label into a multibillion-dollar brand sought after by a wide demographic.

Tom Ford’s Early Days

Born in Austin, Texas on August 27, 1962, Tom Ford is the son of two real estate agents. The family moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, when he was 11. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, Ford describes a difficult childhood in which he was one of the smaller kids in class and preferred arts to team sports.

He dropped out of New York University to study architecture at the Parsons School of Design. Working as a model and training as an actor, Ford was at one point featured in 12 commercials. He spent his nights going to clubs like Studio 54 and meeting influential New Yorkers like Andy Warhol.

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Ford’s Notable Accomplishments

Finishing his studies in a Parsons program in Paris, Ford decided that his calling was fashion design. “I just woke up one morning and thought, ‘What am I doing?’ … Every architectural project I ever did, I worked a dress into it somehow. So I realized that fashion was the right balance between art and commerce, and that was it.”

Back in New York City, Ford worked for Cathy Hardwick, and in 1988 made his way to Perry Ellis, where he became design director under Marc Jacobs.

Gucci was stale and in financial straits when it hired Ford to head its women’s ready-to-wear division in 1990. Domenico De Sole, the company’s lawyer, promoted Ford to creative director in 1994, launching Ford’s career and setting off a revolution at the house of Gucci. Ford blended business with fashion, and remained modest about his role as an artist.

Hours before Ford debuted his third collection for Gucci, fashion journalist Lynn Hirschberg, captured the essence of the designer backstage as Ford analyzed photographs and made last-minute edits to his fall/winter 1996 collection. “It is Ford’s sense of timing,” Hirschberg wrote in New York Times Magazine, “that has made Gucci, in just three seasons, one of the most exciting fashion houses in the world.”

The Rest of the Story

Ford left Gucci in 2004 to start an eponymous fashion brand of clothing and accessories. The company opened its first store on Madison Avenue in New York City in 2006. As a continuation of the themes he brought to Gucci, Ford’s own line is about sleek, largely monochromatic elegance and sensuality. Visit the official site of the brand at

In 2016, two rooms in his honor were added to the Gucci Museum in Florence.

Besides launching his own line, Ford also pursued directing. His first film, A Single Man, was released in 2009 and received an Oscar nomination and other accolades. Another film, Nocturnal Animals, was released in 2016.

This article was originally written by Liz Colville; it was updated August 24, 2017.