March 12 -- Designer Tom Ford presented his final fashion collections for Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent this weekend, and he said goodbye to the world of fashion.
"You're putting so much of yourself out on the runway," Ford said about his craft. "You are saying, 'This is what I think.' It's fairly egotistical to say the world should look like this, women should look like this, and men should look like that. You're putting yourself out there for real criticism; it is, in a sense, a performance."
Ford knows that better than anyone.
He's a designer for celebrities; stars such as Helen Hunt, Susan Sarandon, and Charlize Theron have graced the red carpet wearing his designs.
But chances are, even if you've never heard of him, you're probably familiar with one of his design creations over the past decade.
"Tom Ford's influence, you can see it everywhere," said Patrick McCarthy, chairman of the fashion publisher Fairchild Publications. "You see it on other runways; you see it in the windows of Banana Republic and the Gap. You'd actually see people walking down the street with faux Gucci looks."
Bootlegged knockoffs might make some designers angry, but not Ford.
"It makes me so happy to see knockoffs," he said. "Imitation is a serious form of flattery. It means you've done the right thing, and that's great. I love that."
The wildly popular hiphugger pants trend started when it appeared on Ford's runway. In fact, every time you see a sleek men's suit or a silhouette dress, those design ideas can be traced right back to Ford.
"He took something that was a totally fuddy-duddy image and made it glamorous and sexy and exciting and risqué," said Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue.
Ford's Early Beginnings
Born in Austin, Texas and raised in Santa Fe, N.M., Ford said his family always encouraged him to be and to do whatever he wanted.