Tommy Hilfiger on his signature look
Iconic American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger chats with ELLE about his signature style, modern families and why his brand shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
ELLE Canada: Tommy, you have had an illustrious career in the
world of fashion. Do you ever wake up and think to yourself: “I’m over it!”
Tommy Hilfiger: Actually, that’s a great question, and I do have an answer. I work more now as an editor because I surround myself with a team that inspire me and bring new ideas to the table constantly. Am I over it? Absolutely not. They are what keeps me going; you’re only as good as your team.
EC: How do you keep your brand relevant in today’s fashion landscape?
TH: It just keeps moving ahead, and we always have to modernize our ideas. Make it fresh, but make it familiar; make it fun and stylish and make it affordable and wearable. Those are very important goals for the Tommy Hilfiger brand; more important than anything else.
EC: Given today’s economic climate, there has been a shift in fashion towards a more democratic approach in buying and selling. Do you think there is any place for democracy in fashion? Or should it always be aspirational? It can most certainly be both.
Aspirational can still be very affordable, you know. As a designer brand, we have a duty to the customer to bring “newness” out in a continual sense. This newsness can be in the form of colour, fabric, detail, shape, the way you mix and match pieces together; a nuance you may not have originally thought of. It’s important to offer your customer a new surprise each time.
EC: Who was the original Tommy woman and how has she changed over the years?
TH: Well, there are more of them now, that’s for sure (laughs). At the beginning she was a very specific, young, 22-year-old that liked
trendy fashions. But now, we dress her mother, her sister, her aunt, her cousin. She’s an everywoman in the sense she wears black tie, she wears gowns, she’ll wear something to school, to work, out for drinks. The Tommy brand has a signature look: the nautical, preppy, red-white-and-blue, so our woman can buy these classics that will last forever, but she’ll also buy what may be fashionable this season, and not necessarily the next. She’s fun, wholesome.
EC: How closely tied is your personal identity to the behemoth that is the Tommy Hilfiger brand?
TH: There’s a sense of youthfulness and playfulness to my brand and, although I’m one of the oldest guys in the room, I like to have fun and I always try to represent that in my clothes, runway presentations and campaigns.
EC: Speaking of which, your most recent campaign showing the Tommy Hilfiger Family in tennis whites and lounging at the yacht club is brilliant.
TH: If you go back to the ‘80s and early ‘90s and look at our advertising, you’ll notice we always had groups of diverse people. We took that concept and decided to refresh it and really look at who our customer is today. Our customer is extremely diverse, as is the modern family dynamic. The family unit today isn’t what it was 10 years ago. A family today has a gay son with an African American step-brother; a super-athlete daughter with an unemployed brother. We wanted to show that diversity. It’s tongue and cheek, a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. A wink and a nod, if you will, and we’re showing it that way.
EC: We hate to ask the typical “What’s your inspiration?” question, but …
TH: Don’t worry about it; I’ve been asked it a million times and I’ll answer it a million more. It changes every season, but a few things remain the same. I’ll always and forever be inspired by America, and its people: The Kennedy’s, Grace Kelly; really the American Dream, but I’m also heavily influenced by music, entertainment, movies, sports. If there is one thing that is in front of me that I am enjoying and loving, it’s art. This season (
Spring 2012) it’s all about pop culture. I’m a big collector of pop art. I love Warhol, Basquiat, all that colour and entity. I love the fun of it and I like infuse it with preppy. So “pop prep”, or “preppy pop.” In years past, it was really about rock music: The Stones, Lenny Kravitz. Britney Spears, Beyonce, it’s always something like that. Or maybe, it’s Hollywood. It constantly evolves.
EC: Is there any dream for the Tommy Hilfiger brand that is yet-realized?
TH: Furniture. We have couches, a few tables, but I’d like to expand into a whole, housewares line.
EC: In one word, the Tommy Hilfiger brand is…
TH: Me. Does that work for you? I like it (laughs).