TOMMY HILFIGER RETURNS TO NEW YORK

A love letter to New York: Tommy Hilfiger returned to New York Fashion Week and speaks to Numéro Berlin about his comeback

This was a moment of coming home, of creating the most honest homage to the city where everything began. A new interpretation of the American Dream, a proud embrace of the brand’s iconic DNA. Yesterday evening, Tommy Hilfiger presented its new fall/winter 2024 collection in 59 looks styled by Joe McKenna that were just so on point in a location that could not have been any better to tell another iconic story about Preppy and American Cool. Legendary Questlove and multi-GRAMMY® winner Jon Batiste made the experience even more special. The day before the show, Numéro Berlin met Mr. Hilfiger in his New York headquarters. A conversation about sneakers, Kim Kardashian, and the American Dream.

How many times can you tell the story of preppy? “Oh, so many times,” answers Tommy Hilfiger while sitting on a blue couch in the bright showroom in midtown Manhattan, representing the heart of the company. “We’re always twisting preppy. In the past, we’ve done preppy rock’n’roll, we’ve done preppy punk, we’ve done preppy hip hop, we’ve done preppy street, we’ve done all of that. But now, it’s becoming more sophisticated, more elevated, and a little bit more elegant.” He just finished an urgent message on his phone; the show preparations are intense this time, especially since the show location this season needed a big cut of guest numbers. But Mr. Hilfiger has done this way too often to even show the slightest signs of stress. He seems calm and focused, as if the passion and joy for what he’s been doing for so many years have never disappeared. We have ten minutes only; other journalists are waiting to speak to him too, and when I am about to start with my questions – and I have so so many – Mr. Hilfiger looks at my shoes and decides that this moment starts with a question from his side; his curiosity and openness are just still so beautiful and inspiring.

Tommy Hilfiger: Are these new Puma’s?

Sina Braetz: Yes, they just relaunched the mostro yesterday with their big show. 

Yes, was Asap Rocky there?

No, turns out that he is sick, something with his lungs, I heard.

How was the show?

Interesting, I wasn’t really trying to have any expectations. I think it’s the right time for them to come back.

I wore Pumas in high school.
Sina Braetz: Which one did you wear?

It was a classic, the only one they had at that time. This was in the 70s. It came in two colors, in white with green and white with black.

“People are creatures of habit, they like going back to the same.”
Do you have an absolute favorite sneaker?

I like the Nike Air Force. 

What do you like most about them?

It is just a real old-world classic. I also like the Converse Chuck Taylors. I have always worn those. These,” (he is pointing to his white sneakers he is wearing) “are Tommy’s. We actually have a really good sneaker business. You see the ones down there with the red, white, and blue stripe on the side? That’s one of the best sellers.

Good quality comfort sells.

Yes, look around – if you’re in an airport, for instance, everybody’s wearing sneakers and still jeans or sweats. People are creatures of habit; they like going back to the same. And if you go to any of the inner cities, it’s all basketball shoes, either Nike, Adidas, or Reebok.

Let’s speak about tonight. What are your biggest expectations for the show?

It’s exciting to be back. I hope people like the direction; it is very connected to our DNA: Classic American cool or Cool American classic or American Classic Cool” (laughs). “What we did is we elevated everything.

“I’m always thinking about what’s next in terms of fashion, in terms of direction, and I’ve always been obsessed with pop culture. It is the barometer in the world of fashion, art, music, entertainment, and sports.”
How?

The shapes are new. The fabrics are all new. The styles are connected to the preppy, All-American DNA of the brand. And I think the shapes are really interesting because they’re very modern. 

In your introduction you speak about the vision of the American dreamer. What or who is the American dreamer today?

The American dreamer, for me, is someone who believes anything is possible. I am a very optimistic person, so I like to think that the American dreamer is very optimistic about what will happen in life and what is to come in the future.

I’m always thinking about what’s next in terms of fashion, in terms of direction, and I’ve always been obsessed with pop culture. It serves as the barometer in the worlds of fashion, art, music, entertainment, and sports. I believe that what truly drives societal change is pop culture. Music is constantly evolving, art is incredibly diverse, from examining pop art’s past to its future. And, of course, entertainment encompasses celebrities, influencers, and everything in the media world, including Instagram and TikTok, which are reshaping society – from how people shop to how they perceive things, even influencing their sense of humor. It’s fascinating to observe what social media has brought us, alongside the tremendous growth of sports and its culture.

Is entertainment the new fashion?

Well, I think that for us, it’s been a way of life for almost 40 years now. It is evolving and changing, but I really believe that we’re in a place now where the change has already taken place, with celebrities and influencers being so dominant and important. Where it goes from here, I don’t know, but I think AI will have a lot to do with the change.

What do you think is the biggest potential for AI in fashion?

I think that it will change the whole design aspect.  I also think it will change the advertising tremendously and the media entertainment world, it will be all AI driven at some point soon. Because it’s moving very quickly. 

Do you think this change will increase the need for cultural gatekeepers?

Well, I think that it’s becoming less and less important for the journalist and the gatekeepers to have opinions, because a lot of these brands and a lot of these influencers basically go directly to the fans, and they go directly to the consumer with a simple statement of who and what they are –  take it or leave it. It’s obviously helpful for important journalists to say that’s a great brand and that isn’t but not as important as before because we didn’t have social media. So people could only refer to magazines and journalists’ opinions and advertising.

“40 years ago, when I started my brand, my dream was to build a global lifestyle brand.”
Let’s talk about pop culture. Is there one pop star icon in your life that has really inspired you throughout the years?

There are quite a few, both in the rock and hip hip music world or the hip hop world, from David Bowie and Mick Jagger to LL Cool J  and Snoop Dogg. I have a broad taste level when it comes to music. But, I’m also really looking at Hollywood, to the influencers and to the reality tv world. The Kardashians for example, they are friends of mine. Some people love them, some hate them. But to see what they have done through a reality show, is unprecedented, it is just unbelievable. They did it as a result of their fame through being themselves. 

What do you see as they the biggest impact on our industry and society?

That anything is possible. You can become a billionaire if you want to be. And you can create a brand if you want to. And and look, there are fashion addicted trendsetters,  like Kim  and what she did with Skims and now even Balenciaga. She has done that with her own personality. 

The American dream is still alive?!

The American dream is still very much alive. And then if you look at Silicon Valley, if you look at all the tech people, this is the American dream too. Many of these people, from the founders of Snapchat, Facebook, Apple, are geniuses in their own right, and they basically built multi-billion dollar global businesses with a dream. And hard work. Let’s look at Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, they are geniuses. They came from actually believing that anything’s possible that they could do it. 

This is the American spirit as its best.

Yes, my dream has come true too. 40 years ago, when I started my brand, my dream was to build a global lifestyle brand. And I believed it was possible and I didn’t really know that what the timing would be, when it would happen. But I never gave up and I will never give up. I keep working it, working it, working it – but it comes with a North star and a dream. 

Wow, it is already the time for my last question: “Made in America” – what does that mean to you today?

Well, depends on what it is. If you look at Disney or Coca-Cola – these giant operations are “Made in America” but I think “Made in America” also could mean a home cooked meal by grandma in the Midwest.

And “Made in America” for fashion?

Fashion brands born and bred in America with, I think a lot of reach and a lot of respect in the fashion world. We’re not the same as European brands that are more precious, we are more commercial. 

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