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Cancel culture makes it very ‘tough to be creative’, says Tom Ford

Tom Ford has said that “cancel culture” has forced designers to “think twice” about their creations should it be “called out as appropriation”.

The American fashion designer and filmmaker said that although a “zero tolerance policy” towards cultural appropriation across the industry was a “shift that needed to happen”, but poses a greater challenge for creatives.

In an interview with ES Magazine, 60-year-old Ford said: “As a designer, of course we always appropriated things from a lot of different cultures, but it was seen as a form of celebration and honouring that particular culture…

“Now you have to think twice because it can be called out as appropriation.”

Ford, who launched his luxury brand in 2005, also suggested that many beloved fashion collections that were launched in the past would not be well-received today.

He pointed towards Yves Saint Laurent’s critically acclaimed 1977 “Les Chinoises” collection, which was inspired by China, or his “Peasant Rive Gauche” collection from the year before.

“There are so many things that could never have been created, but at the same time, this shift needed to happen,” Ford said.

“There is a zero-tolerance policy, which is great in many ways but very difficult to manage if you are a public person or if you are running a company. You have to think about all of it.”

He added that it has become “tough to be creative” and “spontaneous” because “you have to rethink yourself”.

Ford has previously been criticised for objectifying women in his fashion and fragrance campaigns, which regularly feature nude women. He also featured a full-frontal male nude model in the ad campaign for his 2002 YSL men’s fragrance, which was banned in the UK.

In 2015, he told the Guardian that he was an “equal opportunity objectifier” because he was “just as happy to objectify men”.

“The thing is, you can’s how male nudity in our culture in the way you can show female nudity,” he said at the time. “We’re very comfortable as a culture exploiting women, but not men. But I don’t think of it as exploitation [either way].”

Ford also opened up about the loss of his partner of 35 years, fashion editor Richard Buckley, who died in September at the age of 72 following a long illness.

The designer’s father also died last year “right at the beginning of Covid”, before Ford was forced to furlough “an enormous number of employees” when stores closed due to the pandemic.

He said he cried about his father’s death, “but not in the way that I cried when I had to get on the phone and make the announcement that we were going to have to furlough employees”.

He described it as “one of the most emotional things, up until Richard died” that he had gone through.

Ford is set to launch a biography on his life and work titled Tom Ford 002 on 16 November. He said writing about his past struggles with drugs and alcohol in the book helped him close that chapter in his life.

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