Design and Business Insights from Tom Ford

Hearing the stories of successful designers first hand is always insightful. Tom Ford is one of the worlds leading designers. In a recent “Meet the Designer” conversation in London with Grazia’s Style Director, Paula Reed, Tom Ford shares some of the challenges and lessons gathered along his journey to the top.

Tom Ford Conversation, Image: graziadaily.co.uk

Here are a few insights from the conversation with Tom Ford:

  • The moment you think you’re a legend, or the top of your game, means you’re no longer thinking or moving forward. Ford does not think of himself as a legend.
  • Fashion is architecture, making and building things… from shoes to businesses. Ford describes himself as “an architect” (where his training started)…a combination of creativity and practicality.
  • Being a designer comes with constant self doubt and questioning, right until the last minute (i.e. before a show) and you keep going until you’re no longer doubting, when it just feels right, and then you know you have the answer.
  • Success comes from a combination of both hard work and talent (slanted more to hard work and obsession). You need a relentless drive, focus, passion and toughness to take the constant knocks and set backs.
  • Being a business person is a “survival mechanism” and requires common sense (Ford didn’t go to business school), and “common sense isn’t common, it’s very rare” and you learn as you go.
  • “Don’t retire… find something you love and keep working until the day you drop dead.” The goal is to find something that makes you happy and focus on being happy every day.
  • The most challenging part of the creative process is creating on demand. When you’re a fashion designer you’re working to a season, calendar and tight schedule.
  • Every good brand has a strong personality behind it that’s different or individual… Prada “the intelligent designer”, Versace “the sexy designer”… the person behind the brand is setting the DNA for the brand.

Every designer has their challenges, but it seems that individuality, passion and persistence prevails when it comes to the most successful.

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