Tommy Hilfiger has been breaking the rules his whole life. So it’s no surprise he’s revolutionizing fashion by gearing up to sell clothes straight from the catwalk at the click of a perfectly manicured finger. The 64-year-old dapper American designer, effortlessly charming with a precise attention to detail has turned his eye for style into a multi-billion-dollar brand sold in more than 90 countries worldwide. One of the first to master the art of celebrity endorsement in the fashion industry, he learned from mentor Andy Warhol to marry fashion, art, music and entertainment or F.A.M.E as he likes to spell it out.
But he’s going a step further, again, by planning to do away with the customary six-month lag between a collection debuting on the runway and the clothes being available to buy in stores. Instagram and Twitter have blown the calendar out of the water, as a new generation of bloggers zap images from the catwalk across the planet in seconds. “There is now a new need for immediate gratification,” Hilfiger told AFP at his palatial Chelsea studios overlooking the Hudson River and streaming with sunlight.
“The younger customer does not want to wait any longer, they want to see it and wear it that day or the next day. So we’re going to change the rules,” he explained. “We’re going to allow the consumer to click and buy.” In the fashion world, perhaps more than any other industry, not setting the trend can be fatal. New York designer Rebecca Minkoff introduced click and buy on the catwalk this weekend. Burberry and Tom Ford also follow suit in September, but Hilfiger’s participation will take it to another level.
The Tommy Hilfiger company, which was acquired by PVH Corporation in 2010, clocked up sales of $6.7 billion in 2014 and has more than 1,400 stores across the world. “It’s an enormous undertaking but we’re going to tackle it and we feel very confident we’re going to do a great job,” said Hilfiger. In September he will also debut a collection with supermodel Gigi Hadid, whose profile shot through the roof by appearing in new boyfriend Zayn Malik’s steamy music video “Pillowtalk.”
Hadid, the daughter of real estate developer Mohamed Hadid and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Yolanda Foster, has more than 13 million followers on Instagram. Hilfiger is effusive in his praise for the 20-year-old model of the moment and California “it” girl. He said it is “probably the first time” a model has really designed a line for and with a designer. “So we’re again, I think, breaking rules and doing something brand new. It’s going to be terribly exciting.”
“We wanted her fans and her age group to embrace Tommy Hilfiger, so I asked Gigi exactly what she wanted to do, the colors, the fabrics, the buttons, all the detail,” he said. But first comes Hilfiger’s fall/winter 2016 collection at New York Fashion Week on Monday. Known for his flamboyance, his shows are always a spectacular performance and one of the most eagerly watched.
His inspiration comes from the trans-Atlantic ocean voyages of the 1920s and 1930s, when people “would get dressed properly to travel,” so think big, think model ocean liner for the staging. French navy features prominently on captain-style jackets and coats, embellished with braiding, and there is a sprinkling of 1970s styles and shapes thrown in, such as high-waisted bell bottoms. The collection is made sexy with whimsical, fun print dresses and crepe de chine, which would be layered up in winter with a sweater or a jacket, or paired with a stunning black leather coat.
Hilfiger designs themselves are not ground breaking. What he does so well is to make clothes wearable, affordable and inspirational. “In the very beginning I said ‘ok I’m going to make clothes people can wear, people can afford, be on top of the trend and embrace pop culture as the engine,” said the father of five. Hilfiger has collaborated with Hollywood, music legends such as Mick Jagger and the late David Bowie, and recently with tennis ace Rafael Nadal to create a whirlwind of pop culture around his brand.
But how does he always stay fresh and on top of the trends? “I have daughters and sons who will say ‘dad have you heard this music, have you see this star, have you done this, have we gone here, have we seen that?'” he said. “My wife is a muse, she’s a former model who loves fashion and we are actually immersed in it at the breakfast table, at the dinner table, on vacation. We’re never away from it,” he said. “It’s not really like work, it’s a passion.”-AFP