Tom Ford Tells Nicolas Ghesquière Designing Clothes ‘Is a Dictatorship’

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Photo: Mary-Louise Price; Photos: Getty Images, Patrick McMullan, iStockphoto

Tom Ford was instrumental in bringing Balenciaga to Gucci Group in 2001. Ford admired Nicolas Ghesquière, a hot young thing who came on as head designer of Balenciaga in 1997 and quickly became a critically acclaimed sensation. Ford interviewed Ghesquière for the latest Interview. His Forbulessness got naked (more on that later) and called him up one day, and the resulting piece ended up being just as much about Ford as about Ghesquière. This is probably due to the fashion industry's unique and fascinating culture of self-importance, of which Ford admits he is a product. He told Ghesquière:


If you are a designer, sometimes it is better not to delegate, because someone pays money for something that you, Nicolas Ghesquière, designed, so it should be exactly the way you want it, exactly the way you would have chosen it. People call me a control freak, and I say, “Well, my name is on the shoe.” It means the heel needs to be the way I want it and not the way somebody else wants it, and the toe needs to be exactly the way I want it, and the fabric and the material have to be exactly the way I want it. It is not a democracy — it is a dictatorship.

A dictatorship! With the designer as the dictator! No wonder fashion people feel so special and beautiful and worshiped all the time. So much so that they can shamelessly have conversations like this:


FORD: The hard part is, once you do it, you have to keep it there. If there are a few collections that are not as good, it starts to go away. Were you popular as a kid?

GHESQUIÈRE: Yes, I was. Yes.

FORD: [laughs] I love that! Most people say, “Oh, no, I wasn’t.”

GHESQUIÈRE: I was! I grew up in such a small city, I had to be popular or I’d be dead. So I had to be popular!

FORD: So you had lots of friends, everyone liked you, and you were very beautiful.

GHESQUIÈRE: Maybe not all of that, but I had great friends. Most of them were girls, and I was already commenting on the way they were dressing. It was really like a small village.

FORD: Are you still in touch with those friends?

GHESQUIÈRE: Some of them, yes. Not all of them, but a few, absolutely.

FORD: It is hard when you go home because usually everyone else looks like hell, and you still look good. [laughs] You don’t have much in common with people anymore.

GHESQUIÈRE: Yeah, it’s hard to keep a normal relationship with them — they are very nice, and they kind of understand what my life is about —

FORD: It is a very different world, though.

And yet it (or something lurking in his psyche) has caused Ford to shun clothes.


FORD: ...This is going to sound crazy, but the first thing I do when I get home is take off all my clothes — at home, just around the house. Like, right now, I am sitting here completely naked. [Ghesquière laughs] I take everything off. I can’t stand clothes! I take everything off — my shoes, my socks, my watch, shirt, everything. I am completely naked.

GHESQUIÈRE: [laughs] Do you wear your perfume?

FORD: That is what I was going to say. I stay this way pretty much 24 hours a day. Richard is very funny. He is usually completely dressed. He does not like to be naked. So he is in the house; we are having dinner. I am sitting there naked; he is sitting there completely dressed. [Ghesquière laughs] I also take, like, three baths a day — it is not to be clean, it is because I like to relax and lie in the water. It is the way I calm myself down. But every time I walk past my bathroom, I go in and I put on some perfume. I use different perfumes for different moods. If I feel that I need to calm down, I put on certain fragrances that are more sensual. If I feel that I need to energize, I put on something else. Fragrance for me is so important. How did your fragrance begin?


Only an all-powerful ruler could get away with eating dinner naked while smelling like he spent all day walking the ground floor of Bloomie's under attack by the perfume-spritzing staff.

Nicolas Ghesquière [Interview]