Tom Ford: What I've Learned

The Nocturnal Animals director on what life has taught him so far

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I'm tired of being me and I'm ready to give more time to another person. That's why I'm so happy now to be a father to Jack, who just turned four. It's absolutely the right time in my life. I couldn't have had a son when I was 40 — I was probably too drunk, for one thing.

I'm a terrible tennis player but I play three times a week, if I can. I'm too competitive to play against friends, so I play the pro.

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I am very spiritual. I was brought up Presbyterian, went to a Jesuit school — only because it was the best one in the neighbourhood — but I've never been into organised religion. Next to my bed I keep a copy of Tao Te Ching, and every so often I'll read a bit. Even just one line can be so powerfully truthful. It's only a slim volume, and if you get it, make sure you get the translation by Steen Mitchell.

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London is wonderful. I love the people, I love all the culture, I love the formality. There was no need for me to move the Gucci design studio from Italy to London. I did it because I love it so much. I also love the quiet. It's so quiet there. In New York, the taxis honk on their horns — Baap! Baap! Baap! Baap! Baap! — but not in London. The only problem is, I'm from the American West, and London doesn't have the weather. If it did, it would be perfect.

Men do not dress better now than they did before. British and Italian men are well dressed, and so are some in New York. In Los Angeles they are definitely not. Wearing shorts with jackets — I never see that in London. As for flip-flops? Men's feet are not like women's, and women know what a pedicure is.

It was only when I went to New York when I was 17 that I realised I was gay. Before then, I had girlfriends, I was happy with them and they were happy with me. I suppose I didn't really imagine that homosexuality even existed back then. Then I went to New York, and it was, "Oh. Right. That's what it is."

The one thing I do less of, now I'm a father, is industry events. I would say that I turn down 90 per cent of them. If you don't need to be somewhere, then don't go.

How do you get people to work for you? You hire the right ones and you give them the space to do the things they need to do for you, especially if they're creative. My work in fashion certainly helped me be ready to direct a movie — you work visually, you think carefully about the way things look and how that impacts on people. I can manage large groups of people because that's what you do as the creative director of a fashion house. And I'm good with actors because I used to be one — not a very good one. I was in a lot of television commercials, if you can call that acting.

Delete most of the emails you get. Don't even open the ones you get from people you don't know, or ones you don't need to reply to.

People in the press have mocked me for the number of hot baths I take every day. It used to be five, but since I've become a father, it's only two. Maybe three. But I definitely need to have a half-hour in the tub in the morning, after I get up at 6am, just to lie there and think. That's my meditation.

To maintain a long-term relationship [Ford has been with Richard Buckley since 1986; they married in 2014] you have to be best friends, you have to understand one another. And you also have to have had short-term relationships before that, and as soon as you know they're wrong, you stop them and move on.

I'm very happy at this point in my life. It's where I pictured myself — successful and happy. I was always very ambitious, and I wanted to make a lot of money and have nice things. But I can see myself one day living a sort of Georgia O'Keeffe life, away from everyone and without so many things. To be honest, it feels a bit like we live away from everyone now, even though we live between Los Angeles and London. It can be done.

Everything in my home used to be perfect. Now it's not and I'm OK with that. Perfection used to be something I had to have everywhere, and now I've realised it isn't important. I do my work and then see Richard and Jack as much as I can. There are more important ways to spend the time you have.

Money can't buy you style. It really can't.

When I was drinking, I was drinking a lot, and there was the other stuff, too. After three drinks I'd try anything. Eventually, it got bad. People would tell me it was bad, that I was bad, but I carried on. I was depressed but I talked to a psychiatrist and a therapist and I stopped. I haven't had a drink for seven years, and I really don't want to. I could make you a cocktail and you could drink it in front of me and I really would not want one. Clean living. It's great.

I have always loved clothes, but I had no idea fashion was what I wanted to do. I was an actor, I studied architecture. It only happened when I worked as an assistant at a fashion company in France [Chloé]. You could say it was destiny: I would say it's destiny. I believe in destiny, and one thing I'm going to do as a father is help my son to realise his destiny, to help him become the person he's supposed to be.

I have had Botox. I've not had any surgery. The trick with Botox is just don't inject too much of it. I've actually had less of it recently. Exercise is the thing you need to do if you want to keep looking good as you get older.

I went to Studio 54 with Andy Warhol and his crowd. You'd go there and if it wasn't good, you'd go to Xenon, then maybe back to 54, and so on. The Mudd Club was also great. Then, I was drinking and taking drugs, and had a great time. When you're 17, you can do that. I made friends there who have been close friends ever since. Recently, Diane von Fürstenberg came to dinner at the house. I first met her then, in the Seventies.

All the characters I write in my screenplays have a bit of me in them. It would be impossible not to — I'm there speaking the words and writing them down.

I have worked very hard, but I have also been very, very lucky.

Nocturnal Animals, directed by Tom Ford, is out now