The fash­ion world’s Cap­tain Amer­i­cana, TOMMY HIL­FIGER is once again red-hot prop­erty. He tells Esquire how he stays ahead of the game.


A chat with the fash­ion world’s Mr Amer­i­cana, Tommy Hil­figer

THE AMER­I­CAN FASH­ION STAL­WART Tommy Hil­figer is cur­rently rid­ing the wave of a come­back nar­ra­tive. Dur­ing its mid ’90s hey­day the brand grew so ubiq­ui­tously it risked over­ex­po­sure by the early 2000s. But the brand has roared back into life over the past five years, thanks to a boom­ing nos­tal­gia mar­ket, a pro­gres­sive em­brac­ing of new tech­nol­ogy and, most im­por­tantly, Hil­figer’s ini­tia­tive to give a new gen­er­a­tion of con­sumer what they ac­tu­ally want.

Not only has his brand em­braced the “see-now, buy-now” com­merce trend, but the past few years have seen high-pro­file col­lab­o­ra­tions (with Gigi Ha­did, and now Lewis Hamil­ton for the new Tommy X Lewis col­lec­tion) as well as spec­tac­u­lar, globe-trot­ting new col­lec­tion launches that have be­come ri­otous, so­cial-me­dia-op­ti­mised spec­ta­cles that peo­ple crave be­ing a part of. Sound­ing like just the kind of party we’d like to get in­volved in, Esquire Mid­dle East flew to Shang­hai to wit­ness the new Fall-win­ter 2018 launch in all its glory, and to talk to the man him­self.

ESQ: So, Tommy, an ob­vi­ous ques­tion to start with, why are we here in China?

Tommy Hil­figer: It’s our fastest grow­ing mar­ket, and we have a strong fan­base here. I con­sider Shang­hai to be one of the fash­ion cap­i­tals of the world to­day. If you look at the growth of the pop­u­la­tion, about 650 mil­lion peo­ple are now up­per-mid­dle-class, and our pre­mium brand sits at a sweet spot in the mid­dle of that.

ESQ: The brand has em­braced the

“see-now, buy-now” revo­lu­tion. Has that de­ci­sion been vin­di­cated?

TH: Ab­so­lutely. We have a youth­ful con­sumer and they want both im­me­di­ate grat­i­fi­ca­tion and unique ex­pe­ri­ences — we are giv­ing them both. We want to blow them away with our fash­ion shows, and al­low them to buy the clothes in­stantly.

ESQ: What other cut­ting-edge as­pects of the in­dus­try are you most ex­cited about?

TH: At the show in Shang­hai we had in­ter­ac­tive screens that take a pho­to­graph of you and then you can se­lect the pieces from the new col­lec­tion to see what it looks like on your body first. Then you can click and buy them right there.

ESQ: That could be a game-changer…

TH: It could rev­o­lu­tionise whether we will even need fit­ting rooms ever again in re­tail.

ESQ: Com­pared to when you started out, what is the big­gest change in men’s at­ti­tude to style that you see to­day?

TH: Men don’t see bound­aries any more. They are as con­cerned about the way they look to­day as they have ever been. That, and I think that price point doesn’t seem to be a hin­drance any more, ei­ther. In the past, men would baulk at the cost of things, but to­day the ma­jor­ity of cus­tomers won’t see an is­sue with pay­ing $200 for a belt.

ESQ: Were you once that guy?

TH: I grew up in a fam­ily with eight sib­lings, and we didn’t have the means to buy what a lot of my other school­mates had. When

I started work­ing, it gave


me free­dom. It al­lowed me the money to buy my own clothes, and it taught me a strong work ethic. Since then I’ve never been afraid of hard work, and I am try­ing to in­stil that in my chil­dren, which is a hard thing to do in this day and age.

ESQ: Do you think that the next gen­er­a­tion lacks a strong work ethic?

TH: A lot of young peo­ple look at suc­cess sto­ries in Sil­i­con Val­ley, and think that it’s as easy as cre­at­ing some­thing and then quickly be­com­ing multi-bil­lion­aires. It looks easy, but you have to put in a huge amount of ef­fort be­fore you gain any kind of suc­cess.

ESQ: Are you an in­dus­try ob­ses­sive?

TH: I am a stu­dent. I am con­cerned with what is go­ing on with every­one who might be a com­peti­tor, and even things like the sneaker busi­ness. I look at what they do, and then think “if I did that, I would have done ‘this’ or ‘that’ in­stead” Maybe I would change the colour or fab­ric, or with a dif­fer­ent pocket. I am al­ways ob­serv­ing and analysing.

ESQ: Your name is on the door. Does that mean legacy is im­por­tant to you?

TH: Yes, it is. There is his­tory that al­ready ex­ists, but I am still work­ing on things that I would like to be re­mem­bered for, es­pe­cially in the area of sus­tain­abil­ity in fash­ion. I’d like to be re­mem­bered as some­one who helped lead a pos­i­tive cul­tural change. In the very near fu­ture, our com­pany will be mak­ing im­por­tant strides in how we source and re­cy­cle our prod­ucts, all fo­cused on hav­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact on the Earth.

ESQ: Fi­nal ques­tion. Who is the most fa­mous per­son you have in your phone?

TH: Dead or alive [laughs]? Maybe

Mick Jag­ger? Leo Di­caprio?

High­lights from Tommy’s Shang­hai cat­walk show

The Shang­hai run­way and im­pres­sive back­drop

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