BERLIN: When I met Tommy Hilfiger in Berlin I was reminded of my art school days at Parsons School of Design in New York where we just couldn’t get enough of listening to guest speakers, who came to lecture and already had their own business going well.
Mr. Hilfiger’s answers not only inspired me for my own work but also put everything out there at the moment, like creative talent, social media, art, design, life…., into perspective. Perfect that he is the patron of this year’s Peek & Cloppenburg’s Designer of Tomorrow project, which I will report on further in the next days from New York City.
Mr Hilfiger, how do you find out what people want to wear?
I am always looking for inspiration in the world around me and during my travels. Today, social media is an increasingly important source of inspiration and as a way to stay connected with our consumers and see the way different people embrace their unique and individual style. We have much more information coming in through technology which adds another layer to creativity in our industry.
What is most important when you start your fashion business when you are young?
You need to have a mentor, who you can listen to and who understands your vision. It’s important that designers find a business partner who is as passionate about business as they are about design. The business side is very time-consuming and it’s different than the creative side, but both are equally important.
How did you get started?
When I opened my first shop in Elmira, New York, which was called the Peoples Place, I had an idea, but no money. Running that business was my real-world degree, and I learned to do everything myself. There were challenging moments, but it eventually led me to work with an inspiring group of business partners and gave me the experience to start my own namesake brand in 1985. That was the first step to achieving my goal of building a global American brand.
What was your idea of design when you started your business?
At the beginning of the 80s I had an idea for introducing a new style: I wanted to reinvent the American classics with a funny, different twist.
How important is celebrity endorsement?
Like social media, celebrity is a very powerful tool. It affects sales for a moment but the relationship between a designer and a celebrity needs to be authentic, otherwise it can go into the wrong direction.
Where do you find new influences?
On the street in all different parts of the world. If you are observant you will see things others don’t see. You take these inspirations from around the world, for example military style, nautical influences, sportswear, etc., and you put it all in a blender, mixing references and refreshing the classics to design a collection that makes a clear statement for the season. Sometimes you read ahead.
Fashion is such a moody business. How did you survive?
I stay focused on what my brand stands for. You have to protect your brand DNA – that is the key to stability and longevity. My customers come to Tommy Hilfiger because they want the American, preppy look the brand stands for. You have to know who your consumer is and what they want, and at the same time stay focused and true to who you are as a designer.
Thank you very much, Mr. Hilfiger. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Thank you, IRMA
Follow the Tommy Hilfiger fashion show at the New York Fashion Week on Monday, September 8, at 11 a.m.