Fashion journalist Richard Buckley, who died Sunday at age 72 after a long illness, was remembered Tuesday by friends and former colleagues as a man of “fierce intellect” with immaculate taste; deep knowledge of fashion, art, music and culture, and a mischievous sense of humor. Above all, he was recalled as a loyal friend, and supporter and influence on his companion of 35 years, Tom Ford.
Here, friends and former colleagues remember him:
Stella McCartney: “Anyone who knew Richard will agree he had such grace and wit, a charm that struck you instantly. Piercing blue eyes that made your legs wobble, and a cheeky smile that made you want to sneak off with him and cause innocent trouble. He dedicated himself to you, and made you feel like the only person in the room. He survived a traumatic past to build a beautiful future, and family, with Tom and he will forever live on in Jack, his son…a class act; I will miss him so very much.”
Fashion stylist and former Vanity Fair fashion director Elizabeth Saltzman: “I’m not sure who knew Richard first, Tom or me. I had heard of Richard and probably started reading him before I knew him. For me, he was the truest of all the writers.…It wasn’t that he spoke with the blue eyes, that he was the most discreet person and the most elegant and kind person, which he was. It was just that you read it and knew it was true.
“Also, his knowledge and his depth were why it was so fun to be his friend. I never failed to learn something and something worth knowing. You only get one professor in your life, and he is that professor. His appreciation for art, culture and exploring.…He had such great musical taste and always knew the next thing. Also, he was a fiercely funny man. We could be talking about something serious, and he could flip it with a word or a note or a theme song.
“There’s not a doubt that he helped Tom build what he has. You always have to have someone believing in you, guiding you, turning you onto art. His love of Santa Fe, Native Americans and how those themes came out…He never needed credit and always gave Tom credit for everything. That’s what’s so wonderful. If you think about it, Tom was the inexperienced one. And how they grew together was so incredible to watch.
“What he and Tom had, it was actual love and genuine respect for each other. And it was just unbelievable to watch how they interacted. I don’t think people can explain it. I think Tom has tried but Richard has never said anything.
“Richard has been suffering for a very long time, and the reason he was still around was because of his love for Jack and Tom. You fight to live for that. Watching him play with Jack and my children was fun because he was so smart. And he didn’t change his character. In our world, you have people who change their character for whatever group they are in. He didn’t do that, and it’s who he was. That’s what I believe is so wildly beautiful and what will be so deeply missed.”
Edward Nardoza, former editor in chief of DNR and WWD: “Richard had left DNR just before I got there. He was something of a legend, having raised the taste level and quality of the shoots and features. His co-conspirators were Barry Van Lenten and Pamela Altman, who also just passed. Naturally, his work was spotted by John B. Fairchild and WWD, who forced him to come back from Paris.
“Richard’s features and shoots were so sophisticated and original, mostly for DNR the Magazine. When I became editor there, I knew I couldn’t improve on anything he did. He was an incredible talent. I think his talents weren’t fully utilized on the Eye, even though he did a great job with it.”
Anna Wintour, global chief content officer of Condé Nast and editor in chief of Vogue: “For 35 years, Richard Buckley and Tom Ford were together in a union as near perfect as any could be — a marriage of true minds. Theirs was a relationship that provided an extraordinary example to us all. Richard was a man of fierce intellect, as kind and generous as he was wise and witty. Long before he met Tom, I knew and admired Richard as a fashion writer with a great curiosity who nurtured and showcased fledgling talents and wrote perceptively about established ones. With Richard in his life, Tom was able to soar professionally — and personally. He was an incredible husband to Tom, and a wonderful father to their beautiful son Jack. My heart goes out to both Tom and Jack. I am devastated by the news.”
Suzy Menkes: “Richard Buckley — like all partners to the famous — was in the shadow of Tom Ford. But only to those who didn’t know the pair saw them like that. Together they were witty and wise, imaginative friends and loving fathers. How brave was Richard Buckley in facing ill health. I can hear his dry, witting words echoing into the empty air.”
Actress Rita Wilson: “He wrote the best emails that often read like narratives. It could be a story about riding a bike, and it would come to you with pictures of him as a 10-year-old riding a bike, and at 18 riding a bike, and last year riding a bike. They always had a beginning, a middle and an end. I said, Richard why don’t you write a book or a memoir? Because ultimately, he was a storyteller.
“What he did once and I was blown away by, was he had gone to a flea market and purchased a box of photos of someone’s life in the 1950s and blew them up to big size, like 2-by-3-foot size and cropped them and printed them to make them look like pieces of art. I always used to say, ‘I love these, why aren’t you doing this?! Why aren’t you making more of these?’ And one year, he made me two that hang in my office. They are very evocative and have an incredible composition. I have never known anyone to do that.
“Of course, everyone knows what an incredible wit he was…he was really funny and succinct. He could go to the heart of the matter. I’m not talking about bitchy humor, I’m talking about observational humor connected to something relevant.
“And there was so much deep love there. Earlier today I was saying, ‘Tom and Richard.’ I meant to just say Tom, but that’s how you always thought of them. It wasn’t just Tom or just Richard, it was ‘Tom and Richard.’ I’ve often said this about long marriages, what you really want to have is something that goes deep. A lot of people go wide and thin, but going deep gives you the history and life and love you want.
“Let’s not forget, they became parents nine years ago and it was a lease on life for Richard that he treasured. I think that was an amazing, beautiful decision they made to start a family. I think in these long relationships and marriages, you get to be with a different person if you stick it out and you hang in. A lot of times people don’t do that, but those two did.”
Paula Reed, British journalist and fashion editor: “I first met Richard when he worked for DNR. The most handsome man in the fashion business — I will always remember him cutting through the crowd mobbing the door of a Katharine Hamnett show at London Fashion Week. It was almost like his feet didn’t touch the floor. I almost swear he glided in. I was 24 and a pretty useless clipboard monkey. Elegance was part of his DNA and in the intervening 35 years, it is how I always saw him: a calm and unruffled presence even in the most undignified melee.
Jewelry designer, photographer and book publisher Lisa Eisner: “I met him in Paris when I was working for American Vogue as an assistant and he was at DNR. There was a whole group of us expats in the early ‘80s. It was such a different time, John Duka was really good friends with him, and Kezia Keeble and Paul Cavaco. That’s how we got to know each other being these punks in Paris when there were no bloggers or influencers, there were just editors and journalists.
“Richard would never go to the directly obvious. He liked the underdog, the ones nobody had discovered. He loved nurturing young talent. He always came up with ideas nobody thought of or saw, he was unusual that way. He was always a journalist, he loved magazines. That’s when magazines were interesting, and you could write about new things. And people would read magazines.
“Tom had lived in L.A. before, and when they came here, it all clicked. They bought a house and that was that, they were in my life. There is always this thing, where Richard was the star at first. He and Tom met when he was designing at Cathy Hardwick. Tom was just an assistant fashion designer. Then things started changing.
“But Richard was at Vogue Hommes, that was a big job for him, and he did interesting things. He had an eye, I think a lot of the art they bought Richard picked out, young artists you never heard of. He was involved with the Hammer Museum and he loved young artists like Mark Bradford when no one was buying him. He loved to go to fairs, find new photographers. The fashion thing eased more into art.
“He influenced Tom, no question, he would be the honest voice, and he wasn’t afraid to say, ‘Don’t do this.’ For the longest time, he loved doing the music for Tom’s shows.
“Richard loved L.A., but he loved Santa Fe the most. I found when he was there that was really when he was the most joyous. It was small, he had his routine, he collected Maria Martinez Pueblo black pottery — he has more than I’ve ever seen. It takes a while to get your groove on in L.A., and they were in Europe for a long time, where they were expats. But I think L.A. was calling to them.
“Whenever Richard and I would go out on these shopping or art journeys, and say, ‘Let’s go get inspired,’ that’s what I will miss. He didn’t have the same eye as me at all, and I always learned from that. My favorite times were in Santa Fe at Indian Market. He funded a lot of the Native American fashion shows they had there, and would sit in the front row.
“You could never predict anything he would think or say. No clichés for him. He had a super-mischievous sense of humor, too. Anything that had to do with slapstick or falling, he just loved that.
“And he always kept his own identity, even though Tom is a big shadow. He had his own friends and his own life, he loved going out to every art opening and every party. He showed up not just for people, but because he was curious about life. He never lost that. Sometimes Tom was too big a person for people, but Richard was the one they could get to know, the approachable one. He nurtured that. People would say, ‘I don’t know Tom but I love Richard.’”