Excerpt: 'Tom Ford'

Tom Ford's world-famous designs at Gucci and Yves St. Laurent have brought sexy, sophisticated clothes into the American mainstream. This year, Ford stepped away from his position as creative director at Gucci to conquer the film world. A retrospective of his work arrives in bookstores this month. "Tom Ford" is full of hundreds of photos from his long career and honest words from his friends and peers in the fashion world.

Read the following excerpts from "Tom Ford."

Foreword by "Vogue's" Anna Wintour:

One of Tom Ford's many talents as a designer was the mystery with which he divined, season-on-season, the extraordinary transformations of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. I would go to his shows expecting to be surprised and delighted -- not a straightforward matter when one attends as many shows as I have -- and on every occasion my reaction would be just that. And yet I have no clear idea how he did it. What was the secret of his neverending powers of invention, his infallible sense of provocation that distinguishes modern fashion at its best?

Then, in 2003, he agreed to act as my co-chairman for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala. Over the course of many months, I began to understand something of his methods and magic. I don't believe that I have ever worked with anyone with a greater passion for detail or a clearer vision of his aesthetic goals. Not thatit was so surprising: After all, I'd seen his advertising campaigns, I'd visited his stores. Rare is the designer who can orchestrate the experience of their world so that everything comes down to one single thing: a wonderful, sensual sensory experience, one that is always charged with some kind of erotic frisson.

Which is why Tom insisted, in his breezily direct way, that the food visually match the table settings (the vegetables had to be just the right shade of green); that the salt and pepper shakers be custom-designed (by Gucci); that Polaroids be sent to him of every usher and attendant we proposed to hire for the night (those who got the job were then given full Ford-approved hair and makeup). As somebody disposed to my own brand of perfectionism, it was an unfamiliar experience to be outdone by a man whose persistence and exactitude puts my own to shame. Tom Ford, I realized, was the Flaubert of fashion.

And just as Flaubert knew Madame Bovary, so Tom Ford knew the woman for whom he was designing: sexy, confident, and often flirtatiously androgynous. This was a creature of his own invention and one, it became clear, that many of us longed to be. When I think back to the early nineties, when he first arrived on my radar screen, fashion was buried deep in the shapeless layers of the horrible grunge look. But along came Tom with his low-cut velvet hipsters and his slinky jersey dresses, and grunge was sent scurrying off back to Seattle. Women woke up to the fact that a little glamour was missing from their lives - and Tom's clothes, always sexually empowering, captured their imagination.

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