Ford’s new vision for men is very Ken Barbie on the jet for the weekend for razzle-dazzle business and pleasure in Dubai. The store, which comprises one ready-to-wear floor and a mezzanine of made-to-measure suites, is an Egyptian temple of metrosexuality—gleaming vitrines of diamond-and-onyx cuff links, eyeglasses with 18-karat-gold bridges, monogrammed hand-knitted socks, and a perfumery of Estée Lauder–produced scents. Ford has said that they are supposed to smell like the sweat of a man’s balls. A woman wants a man to smell like a man, he thinks. “You know, when I was young, men were very attracted to me, and teenage girls were attracted to me, but women weren’t, and now women are very attracted to me,” he confides. “So I think that I know what kind of men women want.”
Ford has decided that since customers are here visiting his “house,” they should be waited on in the way he has become accustomed to, and has hired a half-dozen young models dressed as French maids and butlers in gray suits and white gloves. They stand against walls trying to blend in. Two of the younger ones, both with sandy-blond hair, chat in the corner: “I’ve got a wedding this weekend,” one says to the other, smoothing his vest. “Do you think I could wear this?”
With his best Vanna White moves, Ford leads a group of European fashion editors on a tour, gesturing at stacks of shirts, which come in 350 colors, 35 fabrics, ten collars, and two cuffs. He draws his hand over a display of ties, barely skimming them with his pinkie. “A lot of our competitors only do a few ties per season,” says Ford. “We do every type of color, every kind of fabric, every shade of pink and purple, with pocket squares, bow ties, evening scarves, silk scarves, top hats—well, we may not sell so many top hats, but I want the customer to understand that we have that if he needs it.” He spins down the hall. “For evening, we have double-breasted, single-breasted, peak lapel, notch lapel, shawl collar, white dinner jackets, dinner vests, and dressing gowns, which is one fantastic way that a man can be flamboyant. They retail at $3,900, which I think, actually, for all the work that went into it in today’s world, is not crazy.”
Ford’s Scottish butler, who lives with him at his London townhouse and Neutra home in Los Angeles, circles warily with a tumbler of cola.
“Thank you, Angus,” says Ford, eyes fluttering. “I was about to die.”
He moves on to the shoe department; red velvet slippers, and moccasins, loafers, ankle boots, and golf shoes all handmade with Italian leather.
“The shoes, they are like Berluti,” declares a Frenchwoman, handling a pair.
“Well,” says Ford, drawing himself up, “I like to think they’re like Tom Ford.”
The store is partially a replica of Ford’s house in London, with perforated suede walls and beaver-fur carpet, Makassar ebony cases, and dressing-room fixtures from the foundry used by Diego Giacometti. He’s even moved in some of his artwork, like twenties French urns, a Jean Arp sculpture, and a commissioned Claude Lalanne bronze desk.
In the entry foyer, a stainless-steel Lucio Fontana sculpture with a slash down the middle hangs on a gray wall. “Did you see there?” Ford whispers to me. “I thought the men’s store had to be designed around a vagina.”
A spring Sunday on the Upper East Side: schoolgirls with beach towels sauntering down Madison after sunning in Strawberry Fields, pearl-wearing biddies grasping MetroCards at bus stops, sleek men parking mint-colored Vespas at sidewalk planters of saffron crocuses. Everything is clean and orderly. The Carlyle Hotel is quiet, filled with couples from Houston in wide-brimmed hats tucking into booths for an early supper. In a blue velvet suit with a white shirt unbuttoned to a navel-baring level, Ford dashes into the bar from the airport, recently arrived from Los Angeles—the sexiest man in the room. “I looove the Upper East Side,” he says. “It’s so perfect here.”
Ford always stays in the same room at the Carlyle he’s kept for fifteen years, along with Buckley and their two fox terriers. They take good care of him, and that is Ford’s favorite thing, to be coddled. In fact, when he was late for this meeting, no fewer than four waiters and managers approached the table to excuse his absence (“If you need anything, we are here for you,” they declare, backing away). Upon arrival, he basically lies on the banquette—Ford doesn’t sit so much as slither, shimmying his butt down low on his seat, propping himself up with his forearms, and looking out from under long eyelashes with a postcoital stare.