Born the second of nine children in Elmira, New York, Tommy Hilfiger’s career in fashion began as a high school student in 1969, when he opened a small chain of stores called People’s Place with just $150. His goal was to bring “cool big city styles” from New York to his friends in their small town in upstate New York. Moving to New York City in 1979 to pursue a career as a full-time fashion designer he caught the eye of Mohan Murjani, a businessman who was looking to launch a line of men’s clothing and believed that Hilfiger’s entrepreneurial background gave him the unique ability to approach men’s fashion in a new way. Thus Tommy Hilfiger was created.
Since Tommy Hilfiger introduced his first men’s sportswear collection in 1985, the brand has expanded to encompass a complete premium lifestyle on a global scale. The “classic American cool” DNA and the mix of classic and modern influences that epitomize Tommy Hilfiger’s preppy heritage has remained a distinctive hallmark throughout all of Hilfiger’s subsequent collections.
Tommy Hilfiger’s vision and leadership as principal designer has led him to earn himself a variety of distinguished awards and achievements in business, retail and fashion including being presented the CFDA’s prestigious Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2012 CFDA Fashion Awards.
ZALORA speaks to Tommy Hilfiger about his visions, inspirations and David Bowie.
1. What is the DNA of Tommy Hilfiger?
I grew up on the American East Coast, and that classic all-American lifestyle has remained one of my core sources of inspiration in my work. Since I founded my namesake brand 30 years ago, our core DNA has always been rooted in “classic American cool” style that celebrates East Coast prep with a West Coast twist that’s laidback and confident.
2. What are your biggest inspirations?
Some of my biggest inspirations come from pop culture: fashion, art, music, and entertainment, which I summarize with the acronym F.A.M.E. These provide me with a wealth of inspiration to work from when I’m designing new collections. I find inspiration everywhere — it could be from a visit to the MET or MoMA, a stroll in Central Park with my five-year-old son, or heading to a concert with my wife or children.
3. Have the icons you admired in your youth (David Bowie, Mick Jagger, etc.) shaped your thoughts on fashion?
Rock-and-roll icons like David and Mick have been long-time inspirations for me and they have influenced my designs many times throughout the years. I love looking back to the early days of rock-and-roll, when individuality and creativity were central to the musicians’ wardrobe. They’d all create a stage persona with a completely unique style which would eventually reach the public.
4. Tommy Hilfiger is renowned for its preppy styling, what defines preppy?
Prep is rooted in the American East Coast and celebrates classic, clean-cut styles — it’s all about confidence, eclectic details and not taking yourself too seriously. The most important part of the look is to make it your own: prep can be classic, laid-back, or even rock ’n’ roll. The preppy style at the heart of my brand has gone global and I love to see the way the style differs across borders today.
5. What is the biggest change you’ve seen over the past 30 years regarding creating a fashion brand?
One of the biggest differences is technology — e-commerce, social media and blogging didn’t exist 40 years ago! Today, technology is creating greater and faster access to information for our global audiences. It has changed the way we’re able to communicate with and understand our consumers, which has been an essential part of building a strong global brand that resonates around the world.
6. Your shows at NYFW are always very impressive, what is the most important part in producing a fashion show?
We are proud of our tradition of having one of the most elaborate sets at New York Fashion Week each season. We create our shows to be encompassing experiences that reflect and enhance the theme, and really transport our guests into another universe that elevates the collection. Our show wouldn’t be possible without our amazing sense of team spirit.
There is so much energy that goes into each show, right down to the last second before the models step onto the runway, and it’s an amazing feeling to be a part of it all.