The utterly charming Queer Eye star talks about his passion for fashion, home design and more.
“At an early age, like seven or eight, I understood the true power of clothing,” exclaimed Tan France, co-host of the mega-popular show Queer Eye. He couldn’t have known it at the time, but this passion for fashion would lead to worldwide fame as the style guru on the Netflix hit. And yet, he somehow recognized he was bound for style greatness. “I believe it was predestined that fashion and design would be a massive part of my life,” he added.
When the Queer Eye reboot debuted on Netflix in 2018, it immediately became a ratings juggernaut. The streamer shows France, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness traveling around the world to provide life-changing makeovers to lucky nominees. Both entertaining and heartwarming, the episodes highlight each host’s considerable expertise and talents. And it’s not just fans who have gone wild for the series; critics and award committees can’t resist it either. Case in point: In 2023, Queer Eye secured the most Primetime Emmy nominations in the reality TV categories, including Outstanding Host nods for each of the Fab Five.
Although all the Queer Eye co-hosts are undoubtedly role models within the LGBTQ community, France has become an inspiration to millions of people across the globe. The 40-year-old luminary is one of the first openly gay Muslim men on American TV, representing a population rarely depicted in entertainment.
Surprisingly, however, France didn’t audition to be on the series that has made him a household name. In fact, he had retired from fashion and was starting a family with his husband, Rob, when Netflix execs reached out to him. It was Rob who nudged him to consider Queer Eye, as Tan wasn’t confident he’d be a good fit. Tan told us that he had never thought about being on TV; he just loved how good he could make people feel through styling. “I am definitely invested in fashion and what that does for people,” Tan said.
Tan’s deep love for style began during his childhood in Doncaster, England. Much of his early life centered around decorating, as he would pluck flowers from his mum’s garden and transform the blooms into household decor. He also learned how to construct and adorn jackets at his grandparents’ denim factory. His style sense grew throughout his teens, and it was while attending college that Tan realized he didn’t want to follow the same academic route as his three siblings.
“I wanted to do something creative, which is quite strange in my culture,” he explained. “It really goes against the grain, especially for boys.” Nevertheless, he followed his dreams and “started dipping into fashion” while at university. He then dropped his curriculum, changed schools and earned his fashion degree from Doncaster College. After graduation, Tan started working as a retail designer and director with Inditex, learning the ins and outs of clothing production.
He proved his talent with the next venture, a women’s apparel brand called Kingdom & State. “I made a massive gamble at 26 and launched my own clothing line,” he recalled. “I had no money and totally bootstrapped it. Looking back, it sounds bonkers, but the younger you are, the less risk-averse you are. If it wasn’t for all that work, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
The brand became popular both domestically and internationally, and Tan went on to create additional apparel lines that were purchased by retail giants ModCloth and Forever 21. He acknowledges that even with all the Queer 90 Eye fame, creating Kingdom & State remains the proudest achievement of his career.
His work regularly brought him to the United States, and in 2008, he emigrated across the pond to New York City. Around that same time, he started getting serious about finding a partner to share in life’s joys. He ultimately joined an online dating service, which is how he met Rob, a freelance illustrator and former pediatric nurse. The two quickly discovered
they had uncanny commonalities: They both practice an alcohol-free, smoke-free lifestyle and were astonished by the similarities between their religions, Islam and Mormonism. As their love grew, they decided to make it official, even though they lived across the country from each other.
The duo soon realized they wanted to share a home base and agreed upon Utah, where Rob had spent most of his life. After exploring the Beehive State, Tan fell completely in love with the area and started calling Salt Lake City home in 2018. “I found the mountains and the entire geographical landscape of Utah just incredible,” he said. “It truly has some of the most diverse scenery in the world. Additionally, since day one, the people couldn’t have been nicer, and they continue to be lovely. Those two things have gone a long way to sustaining life here. But most importantly, we have gathered a really strong group of friends; most of my closest friends live here. I see them a couple times a week, and I cook for them at least once a week.”
So has Utah’s “outdoor chic” aesthetic rubbed off on Tan? “I didn’t even know Tevas existed until I moved to this part of the world,” he said with a laugh. “I really enjoy a sleek version of a Teva that I can wear out and about. Also, there is a granola style and vibe I really appreciate. I like a nice fitted plaid shirt paired with an upscale combat short. I wouldn’t go full outdoorsy — that’s just not for me — but there’s a chic way to incorporate it into my own style.” That echoes another trend Tan is loving: taking classic pieces from different eras and adding a modern twist to bring the look together. He is also an eternal fan of the French tuck technique that he popularized, where fashionistas tuck in the front part of a shirt and leave the back untucked. ”It’s a great style trick now and then,” he noted. Of course, Tan travels the world and has incorporated many international looks — not just the French tuck — into his wardrobe repertoire. While visiting global destinations, he is inevitably asked if Utah ever feels dull or monotone. Tan quickly dismisses the idea. “It feels safer in Salt Lake City,” he said. “I will take a lack of diversity over the impending doom of other large cities where I would worry that my children wouldn’t be safe.”
Which leads us to Tan’s all-time favorite subject: his two little boys. Through surrogacy, he and Rob welcomed Ismail in 2021 and Isaac in 2023 to their tight-knit family. The proud father beams as he gushes about his kids. “Just knowing that these two people are tethered to me for the rest of my life feels very special,” he confided. “I have had absolute love for my husband for 15 years, and now I have that same love for my children. For us, there was no other option; we were always going to have children.”
Of course, as all parents discover, a growing household highlights the need for organized spaces. Upgrading to a more sizable residence was a welcome necessity for the happy brood, and he and Rob recently built their dream home on the Wasatch Front. Unsurprisingly, Tan’s design acumen extends beyond fashion into home and landscape design. “If you have an eye for color and pattern, there’s no reason it can’t transfer from fashion to interior design,” he noted. “I think there’s something magical about creating a piece of England on a mountain in Salt Lake.”
The inspiration behind their abode harkens to Tan’s past. As he explains, he grew up in a large Pakistani household surrounded by tons of love — but not a lot of money. “As a kid, I would visit these fancy neighborhoods and wonder what it would be like to live in one of those lovely houses,” he remembered. His goal was to one day have a Tudor home of his own. He never let go of that vision, and when he discovered that Rob also appreciated the English style, it seemed fated that they would build their fantasy home together.
With the help of the Fox Group out of Holladay — “arguably the best luxury homebuilder in this part of the country, if not the entire United States,” said Tan — the couple struck the perfect blend of traditional British and Indian designs. The estate is a wonderland of enchantment and sophistication with Old European architecture, Southeast Asian accents and a striking tuxedo garden of green and white.
Every inch of the 9,500-square-foot home has been thoughtfully crafted. In true Tan spirit, one of the most inspired spaces is the closet. “My closet is one of the most incredible closets one will ever see,” he declared. “It’s very special and very large, with fantastic elements.”
Another favorite spot? The secondary spice kitchen, located just off the main kitchen. “I cook a lot of Asian food, and I love throwing dinner parties,” he said. “My spice kitchen holds all the spices, flavors and scents for my homemade dishes.” Of course, there’s also a fabulous playroom for the boys that will evolve with them as they grow up.
The distinct beauty of a British estate nestled deep in the American West has hardly gone unnoticed. Architectural Digest took particular interest in the unique property and teamed up with Tan to produce a limited TV series fittingly titled Home at Last, which debuted on November 28. It details the design and creation of the English manor from start to finish. “I couldn’t be more excited about this show,” he exclaimed. “I have always been known as the fashion guy, but I have such a deep love for interior design, too.”
Throughout the years, Tan has continued to expand his professional portfolio. One notable milestone was the 2019 release of his memoir, Naturally Tan. The touching tome gives readers an intimate look at growing up gay in a traditional Muslim family and as one of the few people of color in his hometown. An instant hit, it became a New York Times bestseller and a USA Today hottest book of the summer. Although the details are hush-hush, Tan hints at some projects and programs in the works that he’s “very, very excited about” — including a possible new season of Queer Eye. No locations or dates have officially been announced, but he shares that the show has been such a big hit for Netflix that he feels strongly about the fanfavorite streamer returning.
Unfortunately for Utah Queer Eye devotees, it’s unlikely that we’ll be watching the Fab Five revamp locals’ looks anytime soon, although Tan is certainly advocating for it. He closed out our conversation by teasing, “Of course, you should never say never. I have been pushing for Salt Lake to be our featured city for a long time. I would love to complete a day shoot then be able to return home for the evening. There is so much that I think is fascinating about Utah and that the rest of the world would find interesting too.”
And with Tan’s undeniable charm, we think he can promote all the beauty of the Beehive State to fans across the globe. Therefore, not only would we like to nominate Salt Lake City for an upcoming Queer Eye season, we’d also like to appoint Tan as an official state spokesperson. Tan France for Utah!