When it comes to classic American wear, Tommy Hilfiger, the fashion virtuoso’s name instantly comes in everyone’s mind. The self-taught Fashion guru who keeps cultural integrity at his heart is cherished worldwide for his amalgamation of classic with contemporary style. An analogue of prestige now, the fashion connoisseur once belonged to a humble background, but his tenacity and perseverance paved the way for his triumph and the victory of his brand.
A Designer Who is Class Apart
Thomas Jacob Hilfiger hankered to bring the time-honored small-town style to the urban masses and he managed to do all that due to his will power and compelling entrepreneurial skills. Now with brand presence in around 100 countries, Tommy Hilfiger is one of the most sought after brands when it comes to classic American sophistication assorted with the modern style of clothing. The success that is apparent to the masses now is not overnight, he had his share of toil to make what Tommy Hilfiger is now, but unquestionably that was not a one joyful ride.
From Dream to Realization: The Fashion Revolution
What started as a one-man show is now a 16,000 associates’ team, working globally in around 2,000 retail stores, celebrating the American spirit and bringing the best of casual fashion to its clients. This vigor to make a difference started at a young age of 18 when Tommy Hilfiger decided to initiate a movement by designating a separate space for like minded people. Those who lived by their own rules, revered pop culture, appreciated music, venerated fashion and honored art, thus the People’s Place came into existence in 1969.
The fashion hub for people from all professions and ethnic backgrounds coming together under one roof to be expressive about their ideas and catechizing the redundant social and cultural criterion. The People’s Place was the first step towards revolutionizing the fashion scene of America, but Tommy was not aware that by mid-20s he would have to start all over again and come out stronger if he had to make his dreams a reality.
Journey for the Dream: From Elmira to New York
What is now a multi-billion dollar business was once just a simple idea, but what are dreams if they are not meant to be turned into reality. Tommy Hilfiger, designer, dreamer and a fashion revolutionist have had no formal education of fashion. Born to a proletariat family on 24th March 1951 in a small town by the name of Elmira in New York, Thomas was always a dreamer who had it in him to make a difference.
His journey to design the chefs-d’oeuvre, that are so cherished now, started from his native town when he planned to upgrade the style culture of its people. In awe of pop culture and taking inspiration from all things preppy, he would take several trips to New York, trotting the bazaars in search of bell bottoms, leather jackets and puffed up sleeved tops.
People’s Place: Where It All Started
While those dresses would get sold immediately in Elmira, the profits did not quench his thirst to come up with something different. So, to challenge himself further, the shop got shifted from the trunk of his Volkswagen Beetle to a dedicated space – The People’s Place. Thus, started an odyssey of fashion and art and everything in between. The store was a hit and soon he managed to expand his business to six stores in the span of 5 years.
But the oil crisis of 1973 shook many businesses, including that of Tommy who had no choice but to go bankrupt by the young age of 24. From 6 figures to total turmoil, yet the resilience overruled the defeat and he shifted to New York, with the love of his life, suffused with bigger dreams and stronger resolution to make a name for himself in the fashion industry.
All It Takes Is A Belief
Now one of the most popular clothing designers from New York , Tommy had it hard to make it into a business of the elites. It was not until 1985, when an Indian businessman, taking full faith in Tommy’s abilities, inaugurated a men’s clothing line with Tommy as its lead designer. It takes only a spark to light a fire. A proverb apt for Tommy Hilfiger as, since 1985, the designer and his trademark only savored the fruition of their hard work – the Americana style was redefined and became one of the essentials for casual clothing.
Raising The Bar High By Aiming High – The Design Philosophy
Deeply rooted in his traditions and cultural ethics, Tommy had his eyes to the stars but his feet on the ground as is obvious from his designs. But what sets him apart from other designers is his complete belief in his ability to make a change for the better. With a Hangman Ad at Time Square, he campaigned like a pro, challenging the most favorite brands of that time and certainly making an impression.
Not only did he not use any model to entice the audience, but openly put forth his names with the maestros who were in the business and successful at that too. The campaign was indeed a masterstroke; it highlighted the brand’s logo and accentuated its design philosophy of uplifting the traditionalism with a “twist”. Not to forget the choice of color scheme of the logo that has a deep connotation with the American flag.
Redefining Casual Wear
Tommy revived the casual wear culture, bringing in jeans, chinos and bell bottoms to limelight, taking inspiration from hip-hop, rock bands and the boisterous pop culture. His designs became the visage of American fashion with many celebrities, mainly from the music industry, titivating his designs on their music tours.
From Britney Spears to Sheryl Crow, The Rolling Stones to Lenny Kravitz, Tommy Hilfiger became the go-to designer. Despite being in the industry for more than 36 years now, his charisma stays all the same. His revolutionizing the casual wear trend has been the magnus opus for not only his career but also the fashion scene of America.
Tommy Hilfiger: The Brand
Initially a brand for men’s clothing, in 1996, the TH started their women’s clothing line as well, making Tommy Hilfiger a casual wear movement. But every day cannot be the hay day, the 1995 Men’s Wear Designer of the Year has his share of rainy days as well. By 2000, Americans were over the brand and felt its ubiquity overwhelming. The same year he parted ways with Susie, the mother of his 4 children.
Though sales were at its lowest, Hilfiger redefined his designing mantra, paying close attention to his clientele and their requirements. Selling Tommy Hilfiger to Phillips-Van Heusen for $ 3B in 2010, Thomas fixated his attention on designing only. Even after selling his brand, his allure as the fashion aficionado remains. Some of the notable shows, sponsorships and achievements, that celebrated Tommy Hilfiger as the designer, worth mentioning are:
- 1998- Designer of the Year Award by the Parson School of Design
- 1999-Sponsoring of Psychoderelict tour for Pete Townshend, Baby One More Time tour for Britney Spears, If It Makes You Happy tour for Sheryl Crow, Freedom tour for Lenny Kravitz.
- Collaboration with Beyoncé for True Star-the fragrance line.
- 2001-doing his cameo for Zoolander film series
- 2002-International Designer of the Year by GQ
- 2005-Being the sponsor and designer of a TV show “The Cut”.
- 2007-Individual Achievement Award by Hispanic Federation.
- 2008-hosting Tommy Hilfiger Presents Ironic Iconic America.
- 2009-Support Award by UNESCO and also Lifetime Achievement Award by Marie Claire
- 2011-Spirit of Design Award from Philadelphia University
- 2012-Being a guest judge for Project Runway: All Stars. The same year bagging the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award from CFDA.
- Serving as stylist for contestants of American Idol 11
- 2014-Icon Award from GQ India
- 2015-Designer of the Year Award from GQ Germany
- 2016-Collaborating with the famous Gigi Hadid and launching the TommyXGigi line and winning Fashion Visionary Award from the Daily Front Row.
More Than Just A Design: Sharing American Lifestyle Legacy
Tommy Hilfiger may not own the brand anymore, but his legacy remains intact and why it won’t be, his famous collections have been wooing customers since the day the brand was established. From the rugby shirt worn by Wu-Tang Clan and Snoop Dogg for their performances, to the “Tommy Now” collection that caters to the ever-changing demand of the fashionistas, Tommy knows how to keep the audience glued to his collection.
He upped the game of American fashion and introduced it to the rest of the world with his international campaigns like the Madrid S/S 2010 Guerilla Campaign, appreciating all things stripe and the All-American Tribe Collection, the Hilfiger Family A/W 10 celebrating the American traditions and diversity via clothing.
A traditionalist by heart, Tommy Hilfiger has proven that your vision can take you places. The American lifestyle is incomplete without his masterpieces being a part of your wardrobe. From tube tanks tops to all-overs, puffer jackets to polo shirts, Tommy Hilfiger did not only redefine the casual as the luxury but remained ingrained to the preppy pop culture throughout his career. A brand that started with a very small amount is now a lifestyle movement, serving its customers with men, women’s clothing, denim wears, sportswear and even accessories and fragrances. It’s true, all it takes is a little spark to do wonders!