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IN PROFILE: TOMMY HILFIGER

IN PROFILE: TOMMY HILFIGER

Flannels blog article
IN PROFILE: TOMMY HILFIGER 

A legitimate fashion legend, Tommy Hilfiger has been dominating the industry with his signature brand of American prep since the ‘80s. With no official design training, Hilfiger tapped into his own unique sense of style, launching a namesake brand that delivered a fresh take on classic Americana with a streetwear edge. 

Snoop Dogg, TLC, Usher, Destiny’s Child, Aaliyah: TOMMY HILFIGER became synonymous with ‘90s pop culture. A relationship that’s continued today. From Gigi Hadid to Lewis Hamilton, Hilfiger has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the business. Looking to the past, yes, but always embracing the present and shaping the future. 

And for AW22, the brand is continuing to evolve. Looking back to NYC’s pop culture roots, their return to New York Fashion Week saw a tribute to Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory and a brand-new TH monogram, designed by British illustrator Fergus Purcell. Inspired by the Ts and Hs that have peppered their collections for years, the result is a perfectly imperfect, fresh new symbol for the brand.  

It’s no surprise then to see that the collection is filled with monogrammed pieces. Puffer jackets, hoodies and trousers are covered in the new TH. Styles can be layered up, monogram on monogram, or paired with simpler pieces. The idea is that the collection is yours for the taking, there to be tailored to your own personal style. 

To celebrate, the legendary designer talks his TOMMY HILFIGER beginnings, Andy Warhol’s influence and who he’s inviting for dinner. 

Get to know Tommy Hilfiger better. 


With no formal design training, you launched your first fashion business at 18. What made you want to create a brand and design clothes?

When I was young, wearing a cool pair of jeans made me feel like the rock stars I idolised. I wanted to bring that feeling to everyone in my hometown of Elmira, New York. So, I took the $150 dollars I’d saved working nights at a gas station, used it to buy 20 pairs of bell bottom jeans from New York City, and sold them to my classmates. My vision was always to design clothes of incredible quality, great value and at an accessible price point – I've never looked back. 

What are your memories of fashion growing up? 

My childhood rock stars first inspired my love of fashion. The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix defined what it meant to be cool through the way they dressed. Seeing how effortless, edgy but still tailored they looked really paved the way for how I interacted with fashion. As soon as I saw them, I knew I wanted to take their style and make it my own. 

What was your starting point for TOMMY HILFIGER? What do you think made it work?

When I first launched TOMMY HILFIGER in 1985, I wanted a brand logo that would become an American icon. I’ve always loved nautical flags and the red, white and blue colour palette, so these elements became the inspiration for the brand’s logo, and we went from there. Once we started collaborating with pop culture icons, we continued to grow – always keeping our consumers at the core of our decisions.


TOMMY HILFIGER is the pinnacle of the American preppy, sports aesthetic. How have you managed to develop and push the brand forward but remain authentic and true to your DNA?
 

We want to keep mixing up our codes and evolving our brand to attract the next generation of consumers. At the same time, we want to continue designing for our loyal consumers who have followed the brand and loved our styles for many years. It’s about finding the right balance between innovation and staying true to our classic Americana heritage.

From Aaliyah to Snoop Dogg, you were one of the first brands to really tap into the world of music in the ‘90s. What made that connection for you? And why was it so important to you? 

Looking back, I have such fond memories of working with some incredible talents from across the board – musicians, artists and designers. The individuals we partner with share our core value of determined optimism while identifying with our classic American cool DNA. They put their spin on our pieces which injects a new authentic spin into our collections, always keeping the brand relevant and interesting. 

What do you see as the relationship between fashion and music? And why has this been so important to the TOMMY HILFIGER DNA? 

I’ve always been inspired by this relationship between fashion and music – they blend so seamlessly and push each movement forward. For example, when Snoop Dogg wore the iconic TOMMY HILFIGER rugby shirt on Saturday Night Live in 1994, the design sold out the next day. It brought our brand to the attention of a whole new group of fans. It was the beginning of an exciting time for us collaborating with talented R&B artists like Aaliyah and Usher – we couldn’t have connected with our new consumers without the help of music.

The power of celebrity and pop culture has always been important to you. How do you go about finding the right talent? And what do you take from those relationships?

Authenticity is key and we make sure we build personal relationships before establishing any partnership. Each partnership has brought personal meaning and significance to our collaborations. These partnerships keep our brand relevant, inject a fresh twist to our collections and campaigns and help us translate our values around the world. Openness and inclusion is the direction we’re going and where we believe the industry needs to go as well.

There have been so many iconic TOMMY HILFIGER moments over the years. What stands out to you?

One standout moment was the first time I saw my name on a Times Square billboard in NYC. Back in the ‘80s, my backer, Mohan Murjani, introduced me to an advertising genius named George Louis who pushed me to stand out from the homogenous advertisements of my competitors. George shocked me by creating the bold “Hangman” advertisement, listing my name as one of the four major American designers. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. The Hangman ad put the brand on the map overnight and will always be one of the greatest moments in my career.

What can you tell us about Tommy Factory and the inspiration behind it?

Inspired by Warhol’s iconic Factory, Tommy Factory is a place that unites fashion, art, music and entertainment – physically and digitally – as well as bringing together guests, talents and models through innovation and creativity without the limits of location. We’ve reinvented the ambience of Warhol’s studio and brought it to life through our show, on the Roblox platform and through phygital activations around the world. It’s a spin on Warhol’s ‘15 minutes of fame’, making it a truly one-of-a-kind experience. 

You were inspired by the late Andy Warhol. How did he – and his world - influence you?

At his Factory, Andy brought together all these different types of people under one roof – it was so eye-opening and inspiring to see how he celebrated pop culture. This was so interesting to me since it was really the first [time] I’ve heard of a fashion and art collaboration. It piqued my interest in seeing how these two worlds could come together while giving me momentum and motivation to stay relevant in a fast-moving world.

Who – or what subcultures – are inspiring you right now?

With our return to NYC, I’m loving all the different communities around the city that are really doing their own thing. The city is the definition of a melting pot, it has so much to offer in the areas of fashion, music, art and entertainment. There is inspiration to be found around every corner. It feels so good to be back.

Digital has become hugely important to you, especially in your latest show. What do you think is the future of fashion in the digital world?

I believe the metaverse holds almost no creative bounds. Whether it’s with product design, connecting with new audiences or democratising the fashion landscape, all can be done digitally while continuing to push boundaries. We can now test new products, gather feedback, create bespoke shopping experiences and invite millions of people to sit front row at a metaverse show. The future is digital and we’re only just getting started. 

What’s the secret to great style?

A simple combination goes a long way. I like to throw together a well-cut pair of jeans and a classic fit blazer. Modern prep is about infusing time-honoured classics with your own twist. Above all, the secret to great style is about having fun and finding your own ways to express yourself. 

What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion is a celebration of individuality and self-expression. It’s inclusive and creative while evolving and shaping how we show up every single day.    

You’ve talked a lot about your obsession with music. What are your most played songs at the moment? 

I am so obsessed with everything by Jon Baptiste – who is also taking part in our Fall 2022 brand campaign! I’m also proud to share that my son, Ricky Hill, put out a new album last year, and I always have his music on rotation. Such a proud dad moment for me.

You’ve met and worked with some huge icons over the years. Who would be your dream party guests, and why? 

I've had the privilege of working with and meeting some incredible people over the years, but I’m currently excited about what’s happening with the emerging generation of movers and shakers, so I’d invite the likes of Emma Radacanu, Charli XCX and Ncuti Gatwa. I'd love to hear what they’ve got to say.

What do you hope to be your legacy with TOMMY HILFIGER?

To me, the brand is a platform for using our voice and harnessing the power of fashion to lead to positive change. That’s been my mission from the start and how I want to be remembered – for caring about others and making a difference in the world.