Not many people know fashion (designing, branding, advertising (think: that Gucci ad campaign with a G shaved into pubic hair - Epic!), fragrances, etc.) quite like Tom Ford. He is so symbolic of fashion that Jay Z wrote a song about him, which largely just consists of Jay repeating his name "Tom Ford. Tom Ford. Tom Ford." So, it was only fitting that Mr. Ford delivered the keynote speech at last night's CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund dinner, in which he shared the wisdom that we has gathered over the past 30 years, and here it is. Some of it, at least ...
“If you’re designing your own label, then know yourself. When you become well-known as a designer, you give the world your taste. You sell your taste — it’s no longer yours. You can only do this once. The DNA of your brand will become all your likes and dislikes. Once you hit the right chord, you’ll then be typecast and often pegged into a certain slot. No matter what I do, I’m always pegged as the sexy designer who loves black. Miuccia Prada is the intelligent designer. Yves Saint Laurent was the delicate, suffering designer, and so on. My point is, know what you want to say.”
“Know your ideal client — the dream person you design for, your fantasy muse, so to speak. This will give your collection a point of view and a focus. Then know your real client, because he or she may be completely different than what you aspire to or you may not want to know them because in some cases when you meet your real clients they may actually scare the hell out of you. But on occasion, you will meet one that even exceeds your highest expectations and you’ll be so proud.”
“Never sell a controlling interest in your name. Ever. A few million dollars now will seem like a lot to you. But one day, when you’re the success that you know you can be, you’ll regret this. Unfortunately, there are far too many examples of this very sad tale.”
“Decide for you if fashion is an art or an artistic business. This will affect how you set up your company. Some designers are true artists. Alexander McQueen, for me, was an absolute artist. Some are commercial designers who consider what they do artistic but not necessarily art. I would put myself into that category. Filmmaking for me was something that I attempted to do for art’s sake.”
"Choose your team carefully. So much of your success is due to the people who you surround yourself with. Your friends, your family, and the people that you work with — they all play an important role in inspiring you and supporting you and giving you stability. These are the people in your life who will be honest with you.”
Last but not least ... "Know your muse."