Tom Ford Talks Criticism, Fashion Shows, and Getting Knocked Off By Zara

Kudos to Tom Ford for calling Zara out. We imagine most designers feel the same way.
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Kudos to Tom Ford for calling Zara out. We imagine most designers feel the same way.
Photo: Getty

Photo: Getty

Tom Ford's return to the runway for Fall 2013 was one of the big highlights of the past season. But many critics, us included, weren't quite sure what to make of the bold, cartoonish collection.

The designer sat down with WWD's Bridget Foley and opened up about the collection and his reaction to the critics' reactions. The extreme Tom Ford confidence (OK, let's call it cockiness) is there in abundance, but it's tempered by a refreshing self-awareness and frankness about his mistakes.

Ford loved the Fall 2013 collection he presented, and expected the world to feel the same way. "I expected a more positive reaction in a stronger way. And what I got was a sort of stunned reaction," Ford told Foley. "...the whole thing felt a little more silent than I expected it to, because the clothes are not silent." So where'd he go wrong?

"I think that I chose the venue inappropriately. It’s in immaculate condition with every bit of gilt in place. That wasn’t enough—I had to line the steps with 75 boys. I had their hair all cut the same way," Ford said. "The opulence of the room with the opulence of the clothes, I think it was ultimately just too heavy. Had I shown those same clothes in a stark white environment, I think they would have had a very different reaction."

Photo: Imaxtree

Photo: Imaxtree

Ford also has a definite customer in mind when he's designing a collection. For this one he imagined Rihanna as one of them. “OK, that’s Rihanna, and she’s going to her lawyer’s office in that all-black outfit and she’s hung over and that’s why she’s wearing those glasses. Yet she’s still a rock star," he said. The collection "sold like crazy" to Russian stores, apparently, too. Plus, you know, there are the rich kids to fall back on. "There are a lot of 25-year-olds who are married to someone really rich or are the daughters of someone really rich," Ford said. "They’re our customer, and they’ll look great in [the clothes]."

One of the biggest criticisms about Ford since he launched his eponymous ready-to-wear line has been his reluctance to share imagery and open his presentations to a wider audience. And while he was happy to be back on the runway, he's still not happy about giving up control of how collection imagery is released. "A lot of the things I did—it’s not going to sound anything but egotistical—if I’m lucky and I did the right thing, they will be at Zara way before I can get them in the store and I don’t like that," Ford said.

But he's definitely going to return to the runway next season. "I have to tell you—I really resisted [doing a runway show], and then I got so into it," he said. "And then the fact that I didn’t get the response that I wanted has only made me more determined to get it next season. I realized actually I’m a showman and I felt a little sad maybe without a show."