Interviews with Tom Ford are a lot like lucrative goldmines — you know you’re always going to find something good in them. But in a recent sit-down with a reporter from Time Out Hong Kong, the designer who brought sexy back managed to make himself sound awkward while answering questions about doing business in Asia.
Kawai Wong talked to Ford at his new store in Hong Kong’s International Finance Center, an environment she described as being “clinically manufactured by his on-message assistants in order to produce an invisible suit of armour.” Right. The two gabbed about everything from his new comedy movie (he’s still not saying anything about it) and his desire to have kids (he says he “certainly wouldn’t use it as a press tool,” in a shot probably fired at one Mrs. Rachel Zoe). But when Wong managed to squeeze in a few questions about his new Asian customers, he sort of went on the defensive.
For this spring summer you cast Liu Wen, Du Juan and Rinko on your catwalk. What made you gravitate towards them?
Well, first of all, two of them are models and they are beautiful, and Rinko is an actress who I adore and I loved her in Babel. I’ve always been quite multicultural and it’s funny that someone asked me in an interview yesterday if I had any Asian friends. I felt that was such a strange question. When you grow up in America, contrary to popular belief, we are racially blind because we’ve had Japanese and Chinese families, five generations, living in America. So we grow up with Asian-Americans, African-Americans, European-Americans. And I don’t think she’s my Asian friend. She’s my beautiful friend, she’s my dumb friend that asks me crazy shiii… she’s my fabulous friend, she’s my chic friend, she’s my… I’m colourblind. When you do a fashion show it’s very important and it’s a responsibility to represent a multicultural cast.
That whole racially blind thing might be up for debate, especially given how Ford responded to another one of Wong’s questions about Liu Wen.
A friend who works at LVMH said of Liu Wen: ‘She looks Caucasian because of her face, her straight nose, her cheekbones…’ Do you think people regard these Chinese women as beautiful because of their perceived Western features?
[Mildly irritated] No. I think, and don’t take this the wrong way, all of your questions have a very odd racist slant, because you have grown up here. And don’t take that the wrong way; it’s not a negative thing at all. Honestly, growing up in America and Europe, I don’t think as racially as the questions you are asking.
Well, for one…
[Interjecting] I had a journalist earlier ask me a question which, I had to say, found really shocking. He asked me if those flowers are fake. And I said ‘No, they’re not fake, they are real.’ He said ‘I don’t believe you’. And he went over and looked. And I said, ‘They are cymbidium orchids wired to long stems because you can’t get cymbidiums in long stems. But they are real.’ So he looked at them, came back and sat down. I said, ‘Why did you ask me if they were fake?” He said, ‘Well, you are American’. [Laughs] I was like: ‘What does that mean?’ He said, ‘Well, you know often Americans are very fake and you have fake things and so I thought they might be fake.’ And I said: ‘That’s such a racist comment!’ [Lowers voice] He was German.
Maybe it’s the interviewer’s bias — Wong admitted to feeling slightly uncomfortable from the time she first sat down with Ford — or maybe Ford himself was just off his game. While we appreciate what Ford wants to pass off as colorblindness, we know better than to take that at face value. The fashion industry as a whole still has a long way to come before we’re all one big happy family, and even longer still before models start getting picked irrespective of their race or size or the shape of their eyebrows. But hey — baby steps, y’all.