Tommy Hilfiger knows all too well the meaning of failure. In 1976 at the age of 25, his first company went bankrupt, leaving the designer and his stylish wares high and dry.
Unlike plenty of others before and after him, the 66-year-old didn’t give up. Instead, he turned what some would call an embarrassment into the catalyst for a £4.9 billion empire (and a £184 million personal net worth to boot).
Heritage brands (which Tommy Hilfiger is arguably now a part of) can run the risk of being labelled stale. Their sales may be up but their designs are hardly the most exciting thing to hit the catwalk.
But Hilfiger circumvented the designer death knock by teaming up with an It girl. More than just a ‘girl’, she is one of the new breed of supermodels. Gigi Hadid first made her debut at the Jeremy Scott show in 2014, soon taking to the runways of Marc Jacobs, Giles Deacon and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Along with younger sister Bella and brother Anwar, the Hadid family are real money-makers in the fashion world. Rather than simply casting the 22-year-old in a campaign like the rest of them, Tommy Hilfiger went down a much more unconventional (and much riskier) route.
He let Gigi take the reins in the design department. The duo’s first collection, dubbed Tommy x Gigi, saw the many personalities of Hadid take centre stage Then came the Venice Beach extravaganza which invited models Bella Hadid, Joan Smalls and Hailey Baldwin (along with Gigi herself) to display the American designs.
Now, the pair are preparing to make their way across the pond to show their all-American collections in one of London’s most rock ‘n’ roll venues: The Roundhouse. With a super secret show a guaranteed killer red carpet, Hilfiger has managed to take over the London Fashion Week schedule on his first try.
“Gigi is truly the definition of the “Tommy Girl”, the designer tells Yahoo Style UK. “Her personality is down-to-earth and her style is effortless and cool. She is also incredibly hard working and a very talented designer so it’s been great to work on three seasons of our Tommy x Gigi collection together.”
Describing the buzzy collaboration as “a rock concert touring the world to present in new, cool locations”, Hilfiger muses that “London’s inspiring heritage of fashion and music [made] it the perfect location to celebrate our next TOMMYNOW show.”
If you’re not familiar with the TOMMYNOW concept, Hadid and Hilfiger have been one of the sole brands to generate success with the ‘see now, buy now’ strategy. While other names have fallen by the wayside in this particular area, the immediate and accessible Hilfiger line is still going strong.
As with the two collections before, you can hit buy on a look as soon as it leaves the catwalk. “We are a brand that breaks conventions and democratises fashion,” Hilfiger says. “Consumer shopping habits and expectations are rapidly changing, and TOMMYNOW meets their demand for instant gratification and authentic experiences.”
“We’ve seen exciting spikes in engagement and sales as a direct result of the TOMMYNOW platform, and the positive responses continue to exceed all expectations every season.”
There’s probably a simple explanation for this. Millennials love an experience (even more than they love nice shiny things) and Tommy X Gigi certainly provides this in droves.
“TOMMYNOW is the kind of show that I have always wanted to present,” affirms Hilfiger. “It is designed around the consumer, fusing fashion, entertainment and pop culture for a unique and inspiring event. We’re designing every show to be even more memorable than the previous one.”
So what can we expect from the AW17 collection? More stars and stripes and boho dresses? “A celebration of the music, glamour and nostalgia that I love. It’s inspired by my love of rock and grunge style from the past.”
Music and Tommy Hilfiger have a close relationship – whether you can believe it or not. In the 90s, Hilfiger’s oversized jeans and logo sweatshirts hit a note with the hip-hop community. The likes of Snoop Dogg appeared on TV proclaiming that Tommy Hilfiger was the fashion god.
In fact, it was Snoop’s appearance on ‘Saturday Night Live’ in 1994 that “made Tommy Hilfiger supremely cool with the youth,” said the designer in his 2016 book, ‘American Dreamer’. Although music eventually left him behind, the designer has fallen in favour with the music stars of today.
“I have great memories from this era when we launched our first collaborations with musicians and celebrities,” he recalls when prompted on the topic of his 90s design comeback. “Our success has come from defining a clear brand DNA and sticking to it. ‘Classic American Cool’ is always the starting point for everything we do.”
“It’s about celebrating individuality and our relentless optimistic spirit. Every collection is about breaking convention, putting a fresh twist on classic pieces, while always remaining true to our heritage.”
“I once asked my good friend Andy Warhol why he did what he did, and he replied ‘because I like it,'” the designer continues. “This taught me the importance of never giving up on your dreams.
“I’ve also learned that if you follow your passion and always act with integrity, what people say about you doesn’t matter.”
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