A Guide to Tom Ford’s Musings on Life and Death (But Mostly Death)

“There is not an hour that goes by that I don’t think about death.”

Steven Klein

Aside from his beloved designs, whether for Gucci or his eponymous label-slash-empire, Tom Ford is arguably most associated with his bon mots about sex. It may come as some surprise, then, that sex is relatively far down on Ford’s list of priorities. Just like everything else, from good looks to his ongoing fight against overhead lighting to his three daily baths, it takes a backseat to no. 1: death.

The designer and renowned Virgo has openly discussed his past struggles with addiction and depression, but his ongoing fascination with mortality goes beyond that. (Nor is it as morbid as the designer’s appreciation for vampires makes it appear.) As Ford has made increasingly clear in recent years, right up to his 58th birthday on Tuesday, for him, death is about life: “I think it’s one of the things that makes me appreciate things, because you realize this isn’t going to last, so I need to look at it, I need to experience it, I need to try to drink it in,” he told The Guardian in 2016. In honor of his birthday, celebrate Ford’s life with more of his best quotes about mortality, here.

“Death is all I think about. There is not a day or really an hour that goes by that I don’t think about death. I think you are born a certain way. I think you just come out that way.” – The Hollywood Reporter

“I look at a puppy and I think, ‘Oh my God, that puppy’s so beautiful. Oh, it’s just going to be old and die.’ … Everything’s so transient. Everything dies.” – GQ

“A vampire cape was one of the first things I got when I could tell my mother to make something for me, and it was black satin on the outside and red satin on the inside. And I had the vampire teeth and I had the LP with the music from ‘Dark Shadows.’ I was obsessed and I wanted to be a vampire because vampires are sexy. They don’t age. Talk about seductive. I’m not talking about Nosferatu, you know. But vampires were usually rich, they lived in a fabulous house or castle. Wore black. Vampires are great.” – The New York Times

“[Ford’s film Nocturnal Animals] was about the same struggle that everyone goes through, if you’re intelligent, at some point in your life. You ask yourself, What is this all about? Why am I living? What does this mean? Why am I here?” – Interview

“I’ve always been somewhat dysthymic, you know. I sort of operate at a slightly lower mood. I always felt that if you’re happy, you’re just stupid. I still think happiness doesn’t exist and that if we all didn’t expect it to exist, we would be a lot happier.” – Vogue

“I have no idea [what my obituary will say]. And actually, I don’t care. Although I did just design my mausoleum. Tadao Ando, the Japanese architect who built the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, is building a house for us in New Mexico. Actually we’ve just broken ground on the mausoleum. It’s on a place where we’ve been camping, underneath this rock cliff. We have a pair of eagles, a nest there. When you enter the mausoleum, you go down and then come into a circular room. And there are slots in the walls, and there’s room for a couple of horses and dogs…. I’m just sort of having fun with it. Because we’re all going to end up dead, so why not have fun with it while you’re alive? I designed my casket. It was very simple, modest, although in very expensive rosewood. And it goes into a box that is black granite. Slotted in the wall.” – GQ

“Beauty gives me great joy, but it also gives me great sadness. When I see the rose, and I smell the rose, all I can think of is that the rose is going to wither and be dead. But that’s one of the things that endows it with its beauty. If it were permanent, you wouldn’t even notice it.” – Vogue

“From the time we’re born until we die, we’re kept busy with artificial stuff that isn’t important.” – Index

“I look at my son and he’s so happy and joyful and I say, ‘Richard [Buckley, Ford’s husband], it’s because he hasn’t learned the secret yet. And the secret is that he’s going to die.’ Jack doesn’t yet feel the pain that humans, all of us, feel and will feel.” – GQ

“[When you become a parent] you see yourself as a link in the chain. And you see a chain that stretches to infinity in both directions—where you came from and where we’re all evolving into as a culture. You see the world differently.” – The Hollywood Reporter

“Who cares about the past? It’s finished! Today, the future, but the past? You can live in that when you’re in your eighties. I never live in the past. Other than my looks. I look at pictures all the time and I say, “I wish my eyes were still like that” and “God, I wish I still had all that hair.” And “I wish my ass were still like that.” God, I remember when I could flip around onto my stomach naked in front of anybody.” – GQ

Tom Ford photographed by Steven Klein for *W* magazine, November 2005.

Photographer: Steven Klein

“I was raised Presbyterian, but I am actually quite spiritual in an Eastern way, and I often struggle with the materialistic world that I am a part of and this desire and insecurity and materialism that I create … I finally came to terms with it by really thinking that at this moment in existence, we’re actually material beings on this Earth, and we touch and feel and there’s physical sensation. So I just visualize it as if I’m just swimming through all of these things around me, things that I experience and that I’m able to see and enjoy the beauty of, while also maintaining the fact that these things are not ultimately truly important. I view it as if I’m swimming from point A to point B, and that I have the great fortune to move through all of these things without maintaining a greater attachment to them.” – Interview

“My goal is not to have old age. I want to live, and then die—I want to be as attractive as I can be at 95—not for vanity’s sake but because it would be so great to be able to get in and out of the car at that age.” – Vogue UK

“We shift our addictions, and now my addiction is work, but it brings me enormous pleasure. And it keeps my mind from the fact that we are this tiny speck of a planet in the middle of an infinite number of other planets, and everything we have, what does any of it mean? Why do we struggle, why do we suffer? If I start down that road, it’s like, guess what? I think I’ll do something really important and choose the new lipstick colors for 2021.” – Vogue

“I think it’s time I started aging, otherwise I’ll start looking odd. You have to give in to it. I mind the physical part that comes with it, but the actual mindset that comes with it, I love. Because while I don’t like it, I also don’t care as much. So what? This is who I am.” – The Guardian

Tom Ford: Fordbitten

All Tom Ford’s clothing and sunglasses by Tom Ford.

Photographer: Steven Klein

Versace mink and fox coat; OMO Norma Kamali nylon and Lycra spandex swimsuit. Agent Provocateur hosiery; Azzedine Alaïa shoes.

Photographer: Steven Klein

Nautica polyester spandex trunks.

Photographer: Steven Klein

Ralph Lauren Collection beaded viscose and silk jersey dress. Cynthia Wolff bracelet. Right: Oscar de la Renta for Alixandre Furs mink coat. Vintage corset; Agent Provocateur hosiery; Balenciaga shoes.

Photographer: Steven Klein

Rochas silk dress. Ralph Lauren Collection silk satin dress. David Webb bracelet.

Photographer: Steven Klein
Photographer: Steven Klein
Photographer: Steven Klein
Photographer: Steven Klein

Carolina Herrera lynx coat. Calvin Klein Collection cashmere and mink dress. Fogal hosiery; Prada shoes. Right: Narciso Rodriguez cashmere, wool and linen tweed corset; Hermès cotton and spandex jodhpurs, at Hermès. Linda Farrow Vintage sunglasses; Hermès boots.

Photographer: Steven Klein

“When I look in the mirror, I say, ‘Well, this eyebrow is starting to sag,’ or ‘I’m going gray right here, I need to fix that.’ Or ‘I’ve eaten too much. I need to do a few more push-ups, blah blah blah.’ But that’s completely separate from me as a human being. It’s purely the body that I move through the world in, and people react to it on the surface.” – Interview

“We’re culturally taught now that there’s this thing called happiness that’s achievable. Where we’re just happy because we’ve done this and that, we’ve gotten there, we’ve bought this house and we’ve got these kids and we’re just happy now. That’s a relatively new idea. Because happiness doesn’t exist. A happy morning exists and then maybe a depressing lunch and a bad afternoon and maybe a nice evening. We’re sold this concept and I realize that I’m one of the people that’s helping do this because I’m responsible also for our contemporary consumer culture.” – The Guardian

“Working, for me, keeps me distracted and keeps me from pondering the ultimate end to all of this, which is the same for all of us. We have to let go of it all, we have to say goodbye to everything. That doesn’t terrify me, but I’m aware of it every second. And I think it’s one of the things that makes me appreciate things, because you realize this isn’t going to last, so I need to look at it, I need to experience it, I need to try to drink it in.” – The Guardian

“Beauty I find so sad. There’s nothing sadder to me than true, true beauty because it is so temporary and so transient, so somehow you’ve got to embrace that aspect of it. I don’t know, I sound like a crazy person. I guess I’m quite philosophical and I spend an enormous amount of time pondering all of these things—in the bath. In the bath!” – The Guardian

Related: Tom Ford’s Most Tom Ford Tips for Looking as Good as Tom Ford