Tom Ford Talks Confidence, Perfectionism at 92Y

Tom Ford Fern Mallis

Photo: Joyce Culver for 92Y

Tom Ford and Fern Mallis.

Tom Ford’s appearance and conversation with Fern Mallis at the 92nd Street Y on Tuesday night had been sold out for four months, was being live streamed online, and even drew a whole crowd of Ford-philes uptown to watch from a room with a live feed, as the auditorium was overbooked (to put this into context: the last time 92Y had to fill a separate room was for Woody Allen). Then again, in the words of host Mallis, Ford is “a man who both women and men have the hots for.”

The designer spent nearly two hours speaking with Mallis about everything from homosexuality (“I hate that word,” he said. “Of course I’m gay, but I don’t like those labels. It’s not how I define myself”) to his perceived self-confidence to his relationship with his longtime partner, Richard Buckley.

But first: Ford raised eyebrows when he recently implied in to the New York Times that Miuccia Prada might be a bit more inspired by Elsa Schiaparelli than she liked to admit.

“I said, ‘Coco Chanel said that creativity is the art of concealing your sources,’” Ford said, explaining that he didn’t mean it in any kind of disparaging way to Mrs. Prada. “We all suck up inspiration from everywhere. You could take a direct line from me to Halston, but you could also go from Halston to Vionnet. We take the stamp of our own time and put that stamp on our work.”

(One other bit of dish from the Met Gala: Ford smugly shared that as for the Tom Ford tux worn by event co-chair Jeff Bezos of Amazon, “he paid retail.”)

As for his famed attention to detail, Ford credits (or blames) his astrological sign, Virgo. “We take perfectionism almost to the point of illness,” he said. “To obsess over a millimeter of a shoe heel, you have to be a Virgo.”

That perfectionism comes with a price, though—and don’t expect any bridge lines or H&M collabs from Ford.

“What excites me now is the very best,” he said. “The best fabrics, the best stitching… Fortunately or unfortunately, that can cost a lot of money.” When Mallis pointed out that his prices (remember those $3,000 glasses?) can limit his customers to CEOs, Ford laughed. “Or you could have very rich parents or be a 25-year-old with a trust fund!”

He may be on top of the fashion world, but when Mallis asked him if he really is as self-assured as people think, he said no.

“It comes from somewhere deep inside, of wanting approval,” he said. “Confidence is a mask—it’s armor.”