Following the release of his film, A Single Man, the normally rather private Tom Ford has been opening up in a number of interviews. His latest, in The Advocate magazine, is likely to cause a storm of controversy. Ford talks about the time he took over as creative director at Yves Saint Laurent, after his much-celebrated tenure at Gucci. Saint Laurent (who died in 2008) sold the rights to the YSL brand to Gucci in 1999 for $70 million, but kept control of the haute couture business, and there were many rumours of his clashes with the newly appointed Ford, before Saint Laurent finally retired in 2002, dogged by ill health.
Ford told The Advocate:
'Being at Yves Saint Laurent was such a negative experience for me, even though the business boomed while I was there. Yves and his partner, Pierre Bergé, were so difficult and so evil and made my life such misery. I've never talked about this on the record before, but it was an awful time for me… I have letters from Yves Saint Laurent that are so mean you cannot even believe such vitriol is possible. I just think he was jealous, and Yves and I were friends before I took over the company. But then, when we began to move the company forward and were very successful… he just became so insanely jealous… Pierre and Yves were just evil..'
Saint Laurent fans are likely to take offence at the fact that Ford has only spoken out after the legendary designer had passed away and is therefore unable to defend himself. (Although the notoriously strong-willed Pierre Berge is still alive – and we await his comments with interest.)
Saint Laurent was known to suffer from depression and to have been addicted to drink and drugs. He was widely regarded within the industry as a difficult personality and a tortured creative genius. Doubtless it was torturous for him to step aside and watch a younger designer take over the reins at the fashion house he had built from scratch.
Clearly, Ford had a miserable experience during his time at the prestigious house (he now says 'Yves Saint Laurent doesn't exist for me'), but the sexy modern clothes he created have stood the test of time (Carine Roitfeld was wearing a Ford-designed YSL pencil skirt at the last collection).
Ford recently announced that he will be launching a womenswear ready-to-wear label… under his own name. [The Advocate]