The capacity crowd at the 92nd Street Y last night filled the balconies and even spilled into a simulcast viewing area as Fern Mallis took the stage and dubbed the room the “hottest place in town.” Only Woody Allen had ever commanded such a crowd in the organization’s 138-year history. The occasion? A chat between industry powerhouse Mallis and designer Tom Ford.
Those who were able to score tickets—which sold out almost four months before the event—got a candid look at the enigmatic designer, who recently made his return to women’s wear after stepping away from the industry he helped globalize at the turn of the last century. Ford, looking as youthful as he did when he took his last bow on a Gucci runway, took it all the way back to Texas, reminiscing about his stylish—and six-times married—grandmother and not exactly fitting in as a child. As a 5-year-old, Ford recalled, he wanted to be 50, and now that he’s there, he’s the most “confident and happy that I’ve ever been in my life. I feel very much myself.”
Laughing about his failed attempt at being a movie star (the highlight of his TV career was a Prell commercial), gushing about meeting the “love of his life” (Richard Buckley), opening up about the midlife crisis that clouded his departure from Gucci, and revealing that the first Tom Ford women’s show was a secretive affair because he was afraid of failure, the famously flirty Ford thoroughly seduced the crowd. But not without revealing the exacting side of his personality by stopping mid-sentence to demand a camera move from his sight line.
Above all, Ford was surprisingly modest about his myriad accomplishments, even when talking about this time at Gucci. “You never make it, especially in an industry where you have to constantly churn, constantly making stuff,” he told the crowd. “In the last year I’ve had a comeback, I was finished, and I came back again.”
He proved, too, that he’s got a sense of humor, teasing Mallis thoughout the night, like when she asked him about getting older. “It’s like a roast to her. I’m gay and I’m aging. I’m freaking out. Have I gained weight, too?”
The talk lasted well over its allotted time, but the audience seemed willing to stay all night. We asked Mallis why. “Tom is just…he’s hot. He’s skilled as a seducer and people just have this thing about Tom Ford. Donna and Tommy and Norma, they all were big full houses, but the energy for Tom was quite extraordinary,” she said of other popular installments of the Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis series. “I mean, he’s accomplished a great deal and he’s not that accessible. He’s not here, he doesn’t live in New York. We don’t see him in the papers every day at parties and events. You don’t see him being interviewed all the time.”