Photo credit: Damon Winter/The New York Times
Recently Time Out Hong Kong interviewed Tom Ford, an American fashion designer, at the expansion of his store in Hong Kong. Ford is openly gay, but compares his love of beautiful women to his love of sculptures. The interview took an interesting turn when the Time Out Hong Kong journalist decided to ask Ford some tough questions about beauty and the ‘Asian’ body which Ford dismissed as poignantly racist.
Ford was asked a litany of questions questioning his perceptions of Asian beauty. Ranging from if he understood the Asian body to if he chose the Asian models (Du Juan, Rinko and Liu Wen) featured in his latest collection because they were perceived to have a more ‘Caucasian’ appearance. Ford was taken aback by these questions and he then babbled about how growing up in the United States made him more tolerant of other races. Ford considers himself an ‘international’ designer with no ideal racial customer.
Later on in the interview, he unintentionally admitted to having an ideal customer size: very skinny and very tall. When the journalist said she tried on some of his clothes and they didn’t fit right, he offered to hem and alter the dress to fit her. When she indicated that the dress was made with this Amazonian waif ideal in mind, Ford denied it. He then went on to say that Americans and Europeans are too fat and that he admired Asians for their slim physique. Then he finally conceded that his clothes are designed for someone with good taste-and ‘who is probably thin, quite honestly.’ So people who aren’t thin have bad taste?
The journalist asked some sensationalist questions about race; however, some of her questions revealed the contradictions in Ford’s answers. Ford claimed to not see race, yet he was repeatedly stereotyping his Asian clientele as short and slender with broad noses. Clearly, Ford does use the European standard of beauty as he defined Asian noses as wide (meaning ‘normal European’ noses are thin). He also claimed not to have an ideal client, and then indicated the opposite. This only further reveals the rampant sizeism in the fashion industry.
Perhaps these contradictions occurred because the journalist questioned Ford’s answers. For a man who is never refused and takes commercial jet flights to ‘awaken’ himself from the coma that is his persona, this may have been more than what he could handle.