Tommy Hilfiger reveals his thoughts on the future of fashion as he prepares to launch collaboration with Gigi Hadid
Le 6 juillet 2016, 08:17 dans Mode • 0
The 65-year-old fashion designer’s rags-to-riches story merits a biopic, charting one man’s meteoric rise from spirited New York teenager to international household name.
His story which, for full effect, is perhaps best imagined in slow motion with the sounds of The Star Spangled Banner playing out in the background, sees an ambitious kid - Hilfiger was the second of nine children born to Richard, a watchmaker, and Verity, a staunch Irish Catholic - open a chain of denim stores and make friends with Andy Warhol before going on to launch one of the best-known fashion outfitters in America.
A brand that deals in blue jeans, motorcycle jackets and romanticised Ivy League style, Hilfiger is as red, white and blue as they come.
His logo - a homage to the Old Glory flag - embodies Hilfiger’s early idealised vision of pop culture, while every catwalk show staged offers some sort of send-up of the American stereotypes.
It’s a modern-day success story. The business enjoys status as one of the US’s biggest retailers and has 1,400 stores worldwide, while the man behind it - a designer with no formal training - enjoys a bank balance reported to exceed $250 million, a private jet and an art collection to rival that of the Guggenheim.
A fully fledged member of the planet’s super-rich squad, Hilfiger owns houses at locations across the globe including one in Mustique where his next-door neighbour is Mick Jagger. He has also fathered six children - four with first wife Susan Cirona, among them Ally - who appeared on MTV reality show Rich Girls - and a further two with second wife Dee Ocleppo.
No longer the man in charge of his own business - Tommy Hilfiger was purchased by conglomerate Phillips- Van Heusen for £2 billion in 2010 - Hilfiger remains dedicated to the blue jeans, motorcycle jackets and American values on which he built his name. But he has concerns about his country’s future. “I feel sorry for a lot of people in America right now,” he tells me, “for people who don’t have jobs, for people who may have trouble at retirement age with medical insurance. It’s all a bit of a mess. I think it’s embarrassing.”
We meet in his brand’s Knightsbridge HQ, a whitewashed space with a tasteful New England aesthetic that’s typically Tommy.
Hilfiger, wearing his signature thick- rimmed glasses and a nautical cardigan, is flanked by a host of well turned-out assistants - one chino-clad gentleman rarely leaves his side. Behind where we sit on armchairs upholstered in plaid (again, typically Tommy) girls in pencil skirts whisper into mobile phones while carefully rearranging rails lined with striped sweaters and smartly cut sailing trousers from his latest collection, unveiled at New York Fashion Week in February.
For the most part, he speaks slowly and quietly with composure to rival the most cool-headed politician but gets louder and more animated on the topic of London.
“The King’s Road in the Seventies was the place to be. I would love to get a time machine and go backwards. I’d like a couple of days back there.
He is equally enamoured of the British music scene and cites The Beatles and Led Zeppelin as early inspirations for his first business venture People’s Palace - a denim store which sold bell-bottoms and candles to the original hipsters who stomped the streets of Manhattan during the Seventies.
“I was obsessed with music. I wanted to look like the rock stars. And then I started dressing musicians - it was like free advertising. Bruce Springsteen was my first celebrity customer. I sold him a motorcycle jacket and a denim one too.”
In the years that followed, with his own eponymous brand to flog, Hilfiger would find that it was hip-hop stars of the late Eighties and Nineties - see Public Enemy to Notorious BIG - that would catapult his brand onto a global stage. As a result, his logo sweatshirts and outdoorsy anoraks became a staple for everyone from school kids to Hollywood superstars.
Fast forward to 2016 and it is Insta-model Gigi Hadid (a social-media rock star?) who is the designer’s most lucrative brand ambassador. In September Hilfiger plans to unveil TommyXGigi, a capsule collection created in collaboration with the model, who has 13.1 million followers - more than American Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar combined.
Hilfiger is upfront about his plans to cash in on Gigi’s global appeal. “Gigi is the conduit. Her fans want to wear what she’s wearing, drive what she’s driving, eat what she’s eating and do everything she does. She was the obvious choice for us. She’s very beautiful and is very bright.”
As proof of his determination to capitalise on the shift towards a new model of fast fashion, this year has seen a number of major houses announce plans to make collections available to consumers immediately after they are unveiled on the catwalk - Hilfiger will launch his project with Hadid on a “global multi-media broadcast network” and will put it on sale straight after.
“We’re remodernising and re-energising ourselves because we want to take the business to a whole new level,” says Hilfiger. “We cannot ignore what the consumer is demanding. Six months go by and she gets very bored and very weary of seeing the same thing. The way I see it, we have a choice. We give it to her immediately or we keep her waiting and she finds it elsewhere.”
Does this mean the catwalk show as a concept is on the way out? “I think it will still have a relevance,” says Hilfiger, “but more so with the public. It’s not just going to be a show just for buyers and press any longer. It’s all about the consumer - and always has been - but we’re no longer arm’s length, we are connected. This excites me. I’m very passionate about the future.”
A keen shopper himself, Hilfiger tells me about an upcoming trip to Japan during which he plans to “shop stores” with his daughter Elizabeth. “I get a buzz from retail,” he says. But it is pop art that is his first love, a by-product of his friendship with Andy Warhol.
“It’s my passion. I knew Andy. And I’m still inspired by that time. I wish I could go back and soak up more, I’d be like ‘yeah, I was in at the Factory today’ - I should have taken more in.”
Once a social butterfly and a regular at Studio 54, Hilfiger is still a party boy at heart. But these days, letting his hair down involves skiing and bike riding with his family as well as cutting up a dance floor.