Tan France is a fashion designer, TV personality (going into his fourth season of the Netflix series Queer Eye) and author. Here, we talk with him about his celebrity, new ventures and what matters most.
Q: Could you give us a brief overview of your background?
A: I was born in England and raised in a very strict Muslim household. I fell in love with fashion at a young age, inspired by the clothing made in my grandparents’ factory for Disney. I studied fashion and after graduating, took various jobs to learn all aspects of the business (design, manufacturing, wholesale, retail), which included stints at Zara, Selfridges, Forever 21 and Chanel. I then opened my own company, which I ultimately sold before moving to the States in 2015.
Q: Did you know much about Queer Eye before you got that gig?
A: Well, I knew the English version, and I connected with their mission: to help people create the best version of themselves so they can feel happy again. The mission preceded my joining the show but my goal was to make it more heartfelt.
Q: How do you decide how to create the ‘best version’ of a person?
A: I actually do a lot of due diligence, learning who they are, who they were 10 years ago, who they want to be, who inspires them…. It’s less about me making them into someone else but rather finding clothing that brings out the best in them. Of course, I don’t believe that fashion is life’s be-all and end-all but for many, it’s a vehicle to a fresh start. That’s why I’m so proud to be involved in the Suit Drive for Men’s Wearhouse.
Q: Could you tell us a bit more about this Suit Drive?
A: This is my second year doing it for Men’s Wearhouse and it’s a great feeling to help men transition back to the workforce with a donation of gently used professional clothing. It’s a month-long initiative, and at last year’s drive, people donated 2 million items! I have so much respect for Men’s Wearhouse and their goal to help people who might not otherwise afford a nice suit. I believe the main reason I’ve gotten any of the 24 jobs I’ve had in my life is because I presented myself well at the interviews.
Q: How would you describe your personal style?
A: Very eclectic—everything from super casual streetwear to three-piece suits. I love playing with color and pattern but I also like serious and refined.
Q: Do you have a favorite designer?
A: I’m obsessed with Victoria Beckham and I recently discovered Joseph Abboud’s Madison Avenue shop where I’ve bought some great items. I always shop in stores that carry all categories so I can build a complete look. I also shop women’s stores—the outerwear is well constructed and tends to fit me better. Gender-fluidity is certainly trending these days.
Q: How would you describe modern style?
A: I think modern is when comfort trumps fashion. The athleisure influence, stretch fabrics, clothing that lasts—these are all modern.
Q: What are some of your favorite recent projects?
A: My just-released memoir, Naturally Tan, was a cathartic labor of love. A new TV show, Next in Fashion, which I host with Alexa Chung will premiere soon. I’m also doing a Netflix web series, Dressing Funny, in which I do celebrity makeovers with the likes of Tina Fey, John Mulaney, and Nick Kroll. It’s so much fun dressing them, especially in the tongue-in-cheek streetwear!
Q: That’s a lot of great projects! Which are you most proud of?
A: I suppose I’m most proud of my overall journey from a young, repressed Pakistani kid growing up in Northern England to a television star in the U.S. I feel lucky that my parents have been so supportive and that I can continue my mission to encourage people to experiment with fashion, to be open to new options and have fun with clothing without worrying about being judged for their sexual orientation.