Tommy Hilfiger places fashion, art, music, entertainment and sports at the heart of the brand

Tommy Hilfiger has achieved great success by connecting fashion, art, music, entertainment and sports with his brand.

Speaking at “The Wear House” on March 9 during SXSW in Austin, Hilfiger spoke with James Fallon, editor-in-chief of Fairchild Media Group, about FAMES (fashion, art, music, entertainment and sports), and how it has propelled the fashion house . the past 40 years.

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“I always thought there was a marriage between entertainment, media, celebrity and fashion, and I always thought there was a connection between fashion and music,” said Hilfiger, honorary chairman and chief designer.

He remembers that when he started in business as a teenager fifty years ago, he opened a store called People’s Place in Elmira, NY, “which was all about selling cool clothes to cool people who were like-minded, and music was the core. ” He sold tickets for concerts, dressed musicians and also had a record store in the store. “It was 1969, the summer of Woodstock,” the designer said.

When he launched his own brand, he felt that if he dressed musicians, their fans would become customers too – and that’s what happened. “It was done by dressing musicians and using musicians in advertising, when it was everyone from Britney Speaks to Usher, Aaliyah, P. Diddy, Snoop Dogg and many other musicians,” he said. Eventually that expanded into arts and entertainment.

Hilfiger said he was a fan of Andy Warhol, whom he met in New York in the 1980s. “I was obsessed with Andy’s attraction to celebrities….For me it was very exciting, because you’re looking at a painting of Elvis Presley or Mick Jagger or Diana Ross. I thought ‘art, celebrity, music, fashion’ should all go together and I came up with this word, FAME,’ and then he added sports to make it FAMES.

“We live by that as an ethos at the Tommy Hilfiger company,” he said. The brand recently debuted ads featuring Kendall Jenner, and in fall 2022 featured musicians Travis Barker and Jon Batiste.

Over the years the concept has only become stronger.

“It’s really about pushing buttons in society. I think FAMES is the benchmark in society, whether you are Gen Z or Millennial or my age, or anywhere in the world, people are attracted to celebrities.…The Korean K-pop stars are so huge. It’s happening in Asia, it’s happening in South America,” he said.

Hilfiger has had an uncanny ability to spot stars before they exploded into pop culture, which he says stems from “a strong curiosity to find out what’s next.”

“When we chose Zendaya, Zendaya was previously a Disney star,” he said. People questioned the choice after he partnered with Gigi Hadid and Naomi Campbell. “I said absolutely because she [Zendaya] becomes a fashion star. And today, she is probably one of the most sought-after fashion stars in the world, in addition to being multi-talented on many other levels,” he said.

The brand recently signed Sofia Richie as its next employee and face. “Sofia will be a new Gigi. She is really in the spirit of the times. She looks great, and again, she’s a California girl. We also signed another actor, Damson Idris. He’s going to star in a movie with Brad Pitt and I think he’s going to be a big star and a lot of people don’t know who he is yet. We also like to pick them before they get so big that we can no longer afford them,” he said.

Hilfiger has looked for models who have taste and have something to offer the company beyond their beauty, he said. When Hadid approached the company, he wanted to use her brains and styling expertise to create clothes that she would wear. He surrounded her with his design team of sketchers and fabric and trim experts and told her to pick the colors and fabrics she liked.

“At that time, she really wanted high-waisted jeans, and we were in the middle of a low-waist era.…We couldn’t keep them [Hadid’s jeans] in stock,” he said. “We did the same with Zendaya, the same with Lewis Hamilton, and the same with the musician HER, and now we continue to do it with many others,” Hilfiger said.

Last February, Hilfiger held a fashion show at the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal, a first for the restaurant. Hilfiger took the collection to the next level and thought it was a big step for the brand.

“Everyone is obsessed with luxury. If you look at Louis Vuitton and Gucci and Prada and a lot of the luxury brands, they’re quite expensive.…I want affordable luxury to be a cornerstone for us. I want to dress people who love fashion and luxury, but at an affordable price and with the highest possible quality. That was a turning point,” he said. “I’ve always had that philosophy…I just wear all the clothes up now. I just make them more luxurious from a fit, fabric and quality standpoint, while keeping the prices affordable. No sticker shock,” Hilfiger continued.

For the fall of 2024, Hilfiger moved away from the ‘see now, buy now’ model.

“’See now, buy now’ was the emphasis we placed on our pre-COVID-19 fashion shows last show. What we wanted to do was offer the public what they saw on the catwalk, click and buy. It was phenomenal and it worked really well. Now we still have ‘see now, buy now’, but we’ve put the clothes on the celebrities in all the front rows. Whatever they are wearing can be purchased at that time. They have to wait another six months to see what can be seen on the catwalk,” said the designer.

Hilfiger has also developed an interactive fashion game on Netflix called FashionVerse, through a private investment vehicle co-founded by Hilfiger in partnership with leading game publisher Tilting Point. The game launched last January on all iOS and Android devices via their respective App Stores. Netflix members have FashionVerse included in their membership on iOS and Android devices via the Netflix mobile app.

“Technology and AI, and video games, and where people buy and view fashion, is very meaningful to me,” Hilfiger said. “You can be your own stylist and you get an avatar to dress you in [in FashionVerse]. There will be lots of different clothing, from Michael Kors to Alice + Olivia to rock ‘n’ roll T-shirts and accessories. You can dress up your avatar, choose your background… She could be in London, Paris or Austin, and then you will be judged on how you put together your look and that will be rewards and prizes,” Hilfiger said.

An audience member asked if Hilfiger would ever collaborate with The Sims or Fortnite. “We did Roblox and it was really fun and exciting. I would be open to that. Those are great games,” said the designer.

Hilfiger is embracing the technology, though he warned that if misused, AI “will be very dangerous. It needs to be regulated.”

But he said, “You can’t fight technology. Technology is here to stay and you should take advantage of it.”

Hilfiger’s company started using 3D printing many years ago and it sped up the entire design process, pushing the team to create more collections and more styles. If they come up with an idea, it can be implemented within 60 days. He even recently collaborated with DJ Khaled, who loves golf and grew up wearing his clothes, with a line of ’90s-inspired golf shirts that sold out. It took 45 days to get them to Khaled’s store in Miami, called We the Best.

Going forward, Hilfiger predicts that the FAMES model will stick around.

“People need clothes and people always want something new to wear. Art isn’t going anywhere. The art can change. Of course Warhol and Pop Art will always exist, but new artists are emerging who are incredibly talented. Music isn’t going anywhere. It is constantly changing and evolving.…Entertainment goes far beyond a television set. Entertainment is social media, entertainment is Instagram, Reels, Stories, TikTok. Entertainment is the Kardashians and entertainment is also sports,” he said.

During the question-and-answer period, an audience member, a menswear designer whose brother uses a wheelchair, asked why Hilfiger launched its adaptive line in 2017 when some brands have been hesitant to enter that market.

“I have three autistic children,” Hilfiger said. “I have seen them try to get dressed over the years, and because of the dexterity, they find it difficult to button buttons and fasten snaps. One of my daughters had braces on her legs. We designed them with the idea of ​​making it easy for these types of people to get dressed for school and work.…We added hidden Velcro and all kinds of snaps and zippers that were easy to operate. We adjusted some fabrics that were actually more stretchy. We really put a lot of time and effort into it. I’m surprised other brands haven’t done this,” Hilfiger said.

Another audience member asked about Hilfiger’s fashion inspirations and if he’s had the chance to work with them yet. Hilfiger said he has collaborated with Vetements, Kith and Ralph Lauren’s cousin Greg Lauren.

“When you bring two talents together, you might come up with something that wouldn’t otherwise be considered. I’m looking forward to the collaboration we will do with Sofia Richie. The things we did with Lewis Hamilton were incredible,” Hilfiger said.

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