What We Learned From Tom Ford’s Talk At The 92nd Street Y

Last night, the fashion world descended upon the Upper East Side, lining up in droves to see Tom Ford (the man, the myth, the legend) sit down for an interview with industry powerhouse Fern Mallis. We were lucky enough to find ourselves in the audience among the few New Yorkers who managed to snag a ticket before they sold out, nearly four months ago. We believe Ms. Mallis put it perfectly when she opened with the line "Welcome to the hottest place in town tonight."
In what can only be described as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Ford spoke candidly to Fern about everything from his childhood in Texas, to his trials and tribulations as a designer, to meeting the love of his life. As we sat in the lecture hall, we found ourselves having serious college flashbacks — if Psych 101 had been taught by the biggest hunk in fashion, of course. And while, luckily, there was no exam at the end of this class, the venerable designer managed to impart many pearls of wisdom about his life, and life in general. Here's what we learned.

Tom Ford Is A Natural Born Cowboy
"Country" is probably the last word that comes to mind when one looks at Tom Ford, but he is actually just as comfortable in denim as he is in a bespoke suit. Born in Austin, he spent most of his young life in Texas, surrounded by big cars and even bigger hair. He now owns a ranch outside of Santa Fe with his partner, Richard Buckley, where he routinely plays the role of Ralph Lauren-esque stud. "I put on a cowboy hat, and you can see the genetics," said Ford. "Most people look silly in cowboy hats, but I look good."

Lightbulb Moments Really Do Exist (For Some People)
It seems Tom is one of those people lucky enough to have genius ideas jerk him awake in the middle of the night — literally. Tom discovered his calling as a designer on a class trip to Moscow for his then-major, architecture. "I had a 'bing' moment at 2 a.m., and I just sat up and thought, 'I've always loved fashion.' I didn't know a thing about designing, but I knew how to sketch, so I went home and made up a sketchbook."

We Probably Shouldn't Pursue Our Secret Dream Of Becoming A Fashion Designer
When asked by an audience member what his advice for young, aspiring designers is, he replied only slightly humorously, "If there is anything else in the world that could [make] you happy, do that." He also described to the audience his difficulty in feeling satisfied with his own success. "In fashion, you've never made it, you're never finished, and you're only as good as your last collection," Ford said. "I made lots of money...and I bought homes, and more homes, and I bought art, and I bought material things that ultimately did not make me happy." We're definitely rethinking that audition video we taped for Project Runway...

True Love Isn't Just For Disney Characters
As someone who stays notoriously mum on the issue of relationships, we were thrilled to hear Ford talk so candidly when pressed about his partner of 25 years, Richard Buckley. In a stark contrast from today's era of online dating and relationships maintained solely by text message, Ford and Buckley met the old-fashioned way. They were originally introduced by Ford's then-boss, and happened to run into each other at a studio a little while later when Cupid struck. "I was getting back into the elevator to leave, and Richard just jumped into the elevator with me," he said. "He was bouncing around and making a total fool of himself, but by the time the elevator made it down to the lobby, I knew he was the one. We went on three dates and have been together ever since." Awww Tom, you've melted our cold, black hearts.

Photo: Courtesy Joyce Culver for 92Y

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