This year Vogue UK hosted its first festival at Kensington Gore. It took part on April 20 & 21 and each day was divided into two sessions, morning and afternoon. Even though the announced programme was overwhelmingly interesting, I booked my ticket for Saturday’s afternoon session.
The check in was smooth and seamless and then I queued for about 30 minutes in order to get into the ‘theatre’ , where the Q & A with Tom Ford, narrated by formidable Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman was taking place. While queuing I saw Josh Wood ( see the picture above ), a renowned hair-colourist, supervising his team and some Armani girls doing eye make-up, but it hardly looked like everyone could plop in the chair and have their beauty/hair make-over…. I took pictures and marvelled at women and men around me-Vogue team, senior staff looking stern, tense and unsmiling and younger staffers, running around with cute smiles on their faces-some of them were so sweet and helpful, you wanted to shower them with praise and gratitude!
I only spotted Susie Lau, Laura Bailey and slightly dazed Anoushka Beckwith wearing a white sack like dress/cape/coat ? with thread hanging off the bottom of her outfit and matching knee high boots from the ‘famous faces’ brigade, the rest were women and men of various ages and professions, most dressed in their finest, with clever make-up, hair and accessories-I particularly enjoyed watching the younger generation strutting, unsteadily at times, their staff-great energy and attention to detail in some cases!
As the queue moved I spotted Mary Greenwell, the famed make-up artist, assisting on some Vogue cover shoots in the pop-up photo studio, but when Tom Ford’s event was finished, so was the opportunity to have your picture taken and in reality, between the sessions there wasn’t much to do, other than grab a drink, catch on your texts or e-mails or just keeping your sit warm in the theatre auditorium-not exactly glam or entertaining when you paid £75 for the privilege, but then Tom Ford alone made up for the the hardships and slight boredom.
Ahhh, Mr. Tom Ford-as tall, as handsome, as perfectly dressed as in his ads, add to that charm and self-depreciation, honesty and slightly naughty attitude-I just loved every minute of that event !! He oozed confidence and charisma, yet remained down to earth, even cheeky, at some stage asking Alexandra Shulman if she has ever slept with a woman….the auditorium erupted in nervous laughter, as slightly puzzled by the question ( is that even possible or did I imagine it ! ), Ms Shulman replied ‘no’.
The Q & A session started with a perfectly executed homage video of the work that Tom Ford has done in the past and the music was almost no match to the sexiness and glamour pouring off the screen. After that Tom smiled, relaxed into his chair and started answering Alexandra Shulman’s questions. He joked that fantasy world, including fashion, does indeed relate to movies and glamour, however his home life looks nothing like that, in particular there are no naked ladies doing the ironing ( the above mentioned ad reference .)
He had a vision in 1984, while being on a trip to Moscow-hurray, we Russians could inspire geniuses even then .) that he actually wanted to be a designer, creating individual things. His first original design, with his name on it, turned out to be a pair of sunglasses and to this day, everything that he designs or conjures in his imagination, is an impression of Mr. Ford’s natural taste. He admits to being inspired by the 70s still, the minimalism & sleekness of Halston designs, which I think is very much in evidence in his womenswear pieces in particular.
Mr. Ford’s favourite part of the day? When he lies in the bath, all by himself, dreaming and planning and creating in his head. When he is in the office, he surrounds himself with people with great taste and while he has a vision, he does try to help his team to give the very best of themselves.
His worst point? Perfectionism to the point of being snappy. He gave an example of cornering one of Vogue’s assistant before coming on on stage and telling her that she could do with stronger eyebrows. He added that before he quit drinking four years ago, he was more brutal with criticism and had a mean streak. Being sober still ‘produces the truth serum’, a calm, but honest version of what he thinks, always. He says that there is no fame at home and his partner of 25 year, formidable Richard, keeps his feet firmly on the ground.
How did he celebrate his 5oth birthday? He went white water rafting with Richard and their immediate friends. They had no access to proper loo or showers for four days, yet he says he wanted to do it and loved it, being in the middle of nowhere. He likes being outside and doing things that challenge him and he finds restfulness and peacefulness in nature, or as he put it ‘when you are there, you don’t try to re-design a tree, do you?
He says that designing womenswear is hard, because of the short shelf-life, as fashion nowadays is perishable, unlike with movies, when you can direct or produce one movie every three or four years and be happy about. With fashion it’s relentlessly never-ending pressure cooker environment.
Mr. Ford is ‘an e-mail’ kind of person and generally doesn’t carry a mobile with him, as he doesn’t like the idea ‘that someone can reach me 24/7’.
Does he plan to do couture? ‘Couture is an art form, so for the time being I don’t have the desire to do it’
What do you need to succeed? ‘Equity & networking’
What’s his downtime? Working, as he loves it and he is very lucky to be doing what he loves.
He loves taking photographs and making movies, he wants to capture emotion and thinks that style without emotion in nothing.
I was a bit cheeky, when I asked my question, but I actually started with a compliment. The thing is that my really good friend Yana used to work in the same building as Tom Ford, on Bond street, when he was designing for Gucci, and my petite blond friend used to be so exited every time she shared the elevator with Tom, saying he always oozed charisma and smouldering good looks, so in reality he is a rare breed of a man, who both men and women fancy, but does he think that gay designers have something special, as they seem to understand women and their needs in terms of cut, design etc often better, than their straight colleague or even women designers ?’ I blushed when Mr. Ford told me that it was a good question, but he wasn’t sure how to answer it. He doesn’t tend to pin people down as gay or straight, but yes, he supposes that it’s possible.
He was flirty and complimentary and I think when the session was over, it felt almost like the spark has left the room-you either have it or you don’t and Mr. Ford, you have it in abundance!!!
I also attended the panel of discussions with the models ( Eva Herzigova-demure, pretty, lady-like; Lily Cole-big beaming eyes and bright beautiful curly hair; Jourdan Dunn-beautiful swan like girl, with wonderful features and an excitement bewitching her young age, only 21 and Natalia Vodianova-now, let me be honest and say that I am so happy that we, Russians, have Vodianova. To have a role model like that, especially for the younger generations is simply wonderful-she comes across as a genuinely happy and fulfilled woman. Yes, she works hard-she flew in from Hong Kong that morning, yet looked fresh and pulled together as a daisy in the morning dew, but she feels very lucky and sleeps very well at night. She seems to be very level-headed, self-depreciating and honest, kind and funny, really, heart-warmingly funny. She is opinionated, but not bolshy and looking at her, I now understand why the fashion industry loves her-and not because she blows you out of the water every time you see her in the editorials. She is not your stunning goddess like Gisele when you meet her in real life ( she says she even apologises to people when they show their disappointment when she isn’t dressed and glammed up to the nines while shopping at farmers market with her kids, close to their countryside home ), but her smile goes to her eyes and does light the room. She poses to think but to me, she held that panel together, sharing her experience and opinions, self-assured and life-wise.
No, she doesn’t like exercising, yet she runs a marathon once a year. Dieting? No, she doesn’t, sorry, but she swears by blood group diet and has been sticking to it for the last five years. Does she indulge? Of course. Example? When she goes to visit her grandparents and they go to the restaurant and have a seven course meal, but she does wake up in the morning ‘ feeling like shit ‘, like a mere mortal would.
She is passionate about her fundraising work ( she started her charity, Naked Heart, several years ago and builds playgrounds for underprivileged children in Russia ) and her family, but she fights for things that she believes in-maybe that’s one of the reasons why she is a supermodel ? And you can’t help but fall under her gamine, yet feminine charm and admire her !