Tommy Hilfiger: “I want to be a democratic brand”

Sixty-eight-year-old designer Tommy Hilfiger may have been in the industry for 34 years with more than 2000 stores in 100 countries under his belt, but he still has plans to grow the business even further in Australia.

“We’re really energising our brand, we’re expanding our brand worldwide but here in Australia, we have a very large and growing fanbase, so we’re bringing all the latest product here – a lot of new Tommy Jeans styles, a lot of new accessories, footwear, all the new fashion from collaborations with Lewis Hamilton and Zendaya,” Hilfiger said during a press conference in Sydney.

“We’re really energising the brand in terms of opening new stores and really bringing the people in Australia the same exact energy and product that we have in Europe, the US and other parts of the world.”

Tommy Hilfiger has recently begun opening new bricks-and-mortar standalone stores from Maroochydore and Indooroopilly to Melbourne Emporium. The brand also recently launched an Australian ecommerce site and has been reportedly experiencing over double-digit growth on our shores. 

In May next year, Hilfiger will bring his Adaptive range to Australia, a collection aimed at people with special needs which was inspired by his 24-year-old daughter with autism. According to Hilfiger, his daughter struggles to use zippers and buttons, so he designed a range which features magnetic buttons, bungee cord closures and velcro to help people like her dress with style and ease. 

“It’s an enormous market and what we found is one in every eight people has a disability. I have autistic children so I think it enlightened me and opened my eyes to how difficult it has been for these children to dress themselves, blend in with everyone else and how desperately they’ve always wanted to look like their siblings, schoolmates or other people,” Hilfiger explained.

While diversity and size inclusivity are both hot topics in the fashion industry now, Hilfiger was one of the first designers to include a wide range of sizes in his clothing. During his show at Paris Fashion Week this year, where Hilfiger launched his collection with musician Zendaya, he was widely applauded for featuring 59 black models between the ages of 18 and 70 of varying body shapes and sizes.

“I’ve always wanted all different types of people wearing my clothes, all different sizes, ages, backgrounds. I really believe that inclusivity has been at the forefront of my ideals and my motivation from the very beginning,” Hilfiger said. 

“You have to make samples in many different sizes. The world is made up of people from all different backgrounds, sizes, shapes and colours and I want to be a democratic brand and be able to dress everyone, not just six foot models who weigh nothing.”

Part of the zeitgeist

Another notable achievement during Hilfiger’s long career was being one of the first to collaborate with hip-hop artists in the 90s, which he learnt from Andy Warhol. 

“[Warhol] loved pop culture and he wanted to surround himself by fashion, art, music, entertainment and sports stars – really relevant, cool people. I took that inspiration from him and incorporated the use of those people into the brand,” Hilfiger explained.

“Music has also been a big inspiration so I’ve surrounded myself with a lot of stars to represent the brand and become part of it. I gave [musician] Zendaya the power to design what she wanted to wear, I surrounded her with my design team, with sketchpads, sewing machines and anything she needed, it really came from her.” 

Hilfiger also discussed his focus on continuing to evolve the business into a fashion tech brand by embracing AI and using social media to communicate with his customers. He also noted that live stream shopping will play an important role in the future, especially with the introduction of 5G.

“I want to be advanced in terms of social media and I want to have a true voice to the public that goes both ways. I don’t want to just be talking at the public, I want to be talking with the public,” he said. 

“I think that’s the only way it should be for the future of any brand. But for my brand, it is a marriage between technology and fashion today. I think that’s another reason why we continue to disrupt and lead the way.”

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