Tommy Hilfiger created a fashion revolution and broke the laws of American trend by reframing the fashion industry and introducing the all American preppy concept. In 1985, he built a fashion empire bearing his name, and ever since he has been a pioneer in the industry. The visionary designer has an instinctive understanding of the American image, which lead him to become one of the most influential designers in the world. Today, Tommy Hilfiger has more than 1800 stores in 100 countries and global retail annual sales of over 6.7 billion dollars. In this exclusive interview, Wassila Ayoub explores his vision of fashion, presence in the Middle Eastern market, and how his latest collection came to life.
Do you have a specific philosophy about designing?
Our brand DNA is always classic American cool. It’s about celebrating individuality, relentless optimism and breaking conventions. We evolve and reinvent classics in a modern way, but always stay true to our brand DNA.
At the onset of building your fashion empire, you went through a series of ups and downs. What do you consider to have been the most challenging aspect that ultimately led you to become one of the most influential designers in the world?
When I was 25, I had to close my first business, People’s Place, and declare bankruptcy. It taught me the importance of balancing the creative and business sides of owning a company. It became the best lesson I ever learned and gave me everything I needed to know to start up again. I was determined to follow my dreams and build a global lifestyle brand.
How did your Fall 2017 collection come to life?
Music and rock icons, like The Rolling Stones and The Who, have influenced my designs since I was a teenager. The Fall 2017 collection is inspired by my love of rock and grunge style, celebrating music, glamour and nostalgia.
What is it like to be Tommy Hilfiger?
It’s always fun and busy. Finding a balance between work and my personal life is very important, and what I love is that no two days are ever the same.
Today, Tommy Hilfiger has more than 1800 stores in 100 countries and a market capitalization of more than 6.6 billion dollars. How did you do it?
I was taught early on to always follow my dreams. I had a vision of what I wanted and I was determined to achieve it. Tommy Hilfiger has grown into a global lifestyle brand but our DNA remains intact. I’m very proud of where we are today.
What are some of the issues facing fashion these days?
Consumer expectations and preferences are changing faster than ever before. They want instant gratification and unique, authentic experiences. ‘Tommy Now’ is our approach to putting the consumer at the heart of our business, celebrating pop culture and connecting our global audience in a powerful way.
Your brand is synonymous with a luxury and superior lifestyle, yet a big success is the market opportunity where it’s not only affordable for the rich, but for everybody. Is this part of your American dream?
My vision has always been to design clothes of incredible quality, great value, and at an accessible price point. Our brand is about inclusivity and we want to inspire consumers to add their unique twist to an outfit.
Your presence in the Middle Eastern market has been steadily expanding and positively received. What other hopes do you envision for your brand in the region?
The fashion industry in the Middle East is an exciting market with incredible growth potential and we’ve experienced great momentum for our brand there. For the past five years, we have designed special collections specific to the Middle East, such as our Ramadan capsule.
When you think of the Middle Eastern woman, how do you picture her?
Her look is confident and always has a twist to make her feel really unique.
If you could go back to any era and pursue your profession, what time period in history would it be and why?
I’d go back to the ‘60s, which had the coolest fashion. It’s when I discovered my love for designing, and when people in America started expressing themselves more. This era had a great impact on the fashion world.
If your life were a song, what would the title be?
“Happy Music” by The Blackbyrds. This really upbeat and fun song is one of my favourites. It reminds me of People’s Place, the first store I opened in my hometown Elmira in upstate New York. I used to play it there all the time.
What message do you have for all the fashion forward Middle Eastern women who comprise our readership?
Be bold and confident, and always celebrate your individuality.