The designer is grateful to his mentor for believing in him as a young fashion school graduate from London's Central Saint Martins and says Tom's help was invaluable in making a name for himself when he launched his label in 2001.
He explained during a Q&A with Valerie Steele as part of FIT's Couture Council event: ''I wouldn't be in business if it wasn't for Tom Ford. He took a risk, and wrote a cheque, and paid for my second fashion show without meeting me. That was our first show with real PR.
''I started the company with money saved up from lemonade sales on Spring Street. That's how you learn profit and margins, advertising, everything.''
Zac, 33, is now a household name and boasts celebrity clients including Kate Winslet and Jennifer Lopez, as well as a role as a mentor alongside Heidi Klum on popular reality show 'Project Runway'.
But the designer is the first to admit he hasn't always been the most humble, with a former stylist who worked on his shows even branding him ''ridiculous'' and a ''parody of himself'' in 2011.
He laughed: ''I would have strangled myself too. I was just too young and too in-your-face and not humble.''
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