Come Saturday, the fashion crowd descends on Milan to see Men’s Spring Summer 09 collections and one name will be on everyone’s lips: Tom Ford. It’s been four long years since Mr Ford vacated the creative director position at Gucci but he’s returning to Milan in timely style to open his first retail store in Europe. Fashion notables will be given a walk around the five floor, 9,000 sq ft space at Via Verri 3, on Monday 23rd, in the middle of fashion week. But we couldn’t wait till then so quizzed the man himself a few days before to find out how he feels about returning to the city where he made his name...

We love your label for its unapologetic formality. Where does your passion for formal dressing come from?

Formality feels right to me right now. At a time when fashion is getting increasingly more casual and broken down, I think that 'dressing up' shows that the wearer has self-respect and respect for the people around him. Maybe it is also a reaction against all the trends out there in menswear at the moment. Formal is just how I want to dress right now.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by everything around me.

What does it mean for you to be opening a store of your own label, under your own name, in Milan particularly, given the success you had here under Gucci?

It is great to be doing something that is purely 100% my own taste, my own vision, my own creation from the ground up. It is also wonderful to be returning to Milan which is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is not only Italy’s fashion capital, but it is also the Italian home of luxury menswear.

Do you see a progression in your work as a designer?

The progression of my work as a designer very much follows the progression of myself as a person. As I grow older, I see myself and the world differently. I have different role models and different values. Authenticity has become increasingly important to me in my life and in my work.

What bespoke services are available in your Milan store?

We will offer the same made-to-measure services in all of our Tom Ford flagship stores. It is not a bespoke service from the ground up. We work off four different bases, we take your measurements, work out which base is right for you, modify it, send it to our factory, and when it comes back we have a sample room in the store where we can do dramatic alterations. When you go to a bespoke tailor, you can have almost anything made. When you come to us, you come for a certain Tom Ford look and then it’s modified. This is a hybrid that did not exist. We offer much more customization than you can get from any other design company. At the same time, it has more of a personal stamp than Savile Row.

This is your second flagship – how many more have you planned, where and when?

We will be opening directly operated Tom Ford flagship stores in Milan, London, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas over the next 2 years as well as free standing stores in Baku, Moscow, Dubai, and Puerto Banus which will total over 100 free-standing Tom Ford retail stores worldwide over the next 10 years. We have also just opened a shop this spring in Zurich, with shops in Daslu, Bergdorf's, Harry Rosen, Lane Crawford Hong Kong and Neiman Marcus to follow in September.

Is retail design more significant now than it was 10 years ago?

Retail design has always been significant in helping to define a brand and has become more important than ever as the entire luxury industry has become more homogenised. More than ever, the brand experience is, in part, determined by the retail space.

You’ve turned your hand to fashion, accessories, beauty and fragrance. Have you any plans to branch into homeware?

For the moment, we are focusing on the existing categories and have no plans to branch into homeware.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

More time.

Describe Tom Ford in three words.

Loyal, shy, perfectionist.