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
“WE HAVE A YOUTHFUL CONSUMER WHO WANTS BOTH IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION AND UNIQUE EXPERIENCES — WE ARE GIVING THEM BOTH.”
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