Fashion is a fickle beast, and no one knows that better than Tommy Hilfiger. For this reason, sitting on the navy blue couch on the ninth floor of his flashy office at 285 Madison Avenue, New York, the man who built a billion dollar company in part bringing streetwear to the masses is happily calling on his death knees . “We’ve gotten away from streetwear,” says the 72-year-old designer, of the baggy jeans and splashy logo tees he’s borrowed from skate, surf, hip-hop enthusiasts and become a staple of his brand from the nineties. .
Ironically, he’s wearing a full, white, branded tracksuit and fresh white boxy trainers, “but I’m flying to Palm Beach later, this is just comfortable,” he laughs. “Streetwear had its moment. We did it in the early nineties and then again recently. Now he will take a break and come back in a different way in 10 years.”
This was the behemoth from his New York Fashion Week show on Friday night. There was good reason to go big – the King of the Big Apple was back, after a two-year hiatus. “It all started in New York, in 1985, almost 40 years ago. This is home. And when we show up at home, we want to do something special,” he says, all-American veneers shining.
And it was definitely special. At around 8.30pm, in Grand Central Station’s Oyster Bar, a crowd of 400 had made it through the NYPD-controlled crowds guarding the entrance and the models began to flow under the wooden tables, flowing with dirty martinis and lipstick-stained champagne flutes. .
The restaurant with its usual gingham tablecloths was royally spread – a fresh navy blue carpet was laid out, and framed red, white and blue logo flags hung on the walls. Plenty of Londoners made the trek; in the front row were Peckham actor Damson Idris, Bush Shepherd-born rapper Central Cee, Bollywood star and Notting Hill resident Sonam Kapoor, comedian Gstaad Guy and Romeo Beckham’s model beau Mia Regan.
It was the first headline show of New York Fashion Week, and the anticipation in the room matched the city’s sports bars on Sunday’s Super Bowl, which would come two days later. As for the clothes, Hilfiger went back to zero with the style he cut his teeth on – everything preppy. “We wanted it to be classic American cool and preppy, but built up and polished,” he says. The opening look, floppy, wide tailored beige slacks, worn with an exaggerated collar button down and the stealthy richness of a mustard gray wool cap, sets the tone.
What followed next was the heart of the sixth form — girls in Prince of Wales checking miniskirts, navy pea coats and glossy loafers; boys in skewed ties, stripes, rugby shirts and rucksacks slung over one shoulder – sometimes 59. Or, in New York terms, as they emerged from Gossip Girl, the TV series that followed the Upper East Side elite through the prep school, and aired in 2007 with an opening scene set in Grand Central.
True to life, rich kid and grandchild Scarlet Stallone, daughter of 21-year-old action star Sylvester, walked the catwalk. “He’s a good friend,” Hilfiger says of her father, who was crying from the front row. “She’s a schoolgirl, Ivy League, collegiate,” says Hilfiger. Why? Because we are witnessing the return of the posh, according to him. “People want to look like they’re wearing expensive clothes. It is becoming more grown up, more sophisticated. The pendulum swings this way and that all the time.”
You only have to look at the success of Saltburn, a film made by Emerald Fennell that deals with the lives of British aristos, to understand that there is a desire today. On the runway, notes of the British upper classes came through — especially in the riding boots borrowed from the hunters, complete with the wide-ankle outfit that you’d sooner see in cots and hounds surrounded by the Cotswolds, than New York was fashionable. exec.
“A lot of it [those wanting to look posh] cannot afford to shop in the luxury market. If you look at the prices of Vuitton, Prada and Loro Piana, it’s unattainable,” he says. Its midrange offering, which feels strong and well-made to touch (“the quality is amazing,” he said), is made to fill that gap.
It’s a testament to his persistent business acumen that defined Hilfiger’s bouldering rise; a story that began with an 18-year-old student sewing jeans in Elmira, a city in the state of New York, and who achieved a label of the same name, launched with the support of Indian textile magnate Mohan Murjani, when he was 34.
Three years later, in 1988, he won sales of $25 million. By the mid-nineties, as the brand gained popularity in the hip-hop and rap community, that number quickly increased to $500 million, and by the turn of the millennium it had reached the $1 billion mark. In 2006, Hilfiger sold the company for $1.6 billion. He remains the company’s chief designer today, and seems as motivated as ever to attract new customers.
The celebrity collaborations were his latest golden ticket, and they count designer lines with Gigi Hadid (since 2016), Lewis Hamilton (since 2018) and Zendaya (since 2019). In 2024, Sofia Richie, the model daughter of singer Lionel, took the reins. “We’re always looking at who might be next,” he says. “And Sofia will be the next big girl in the world.” It was her dazzling entrance on the show, British music executive husband Elliot Grainge in tow, typically in Hilfiger fashion, as he says.
“A typical fashion show is outdated,” he says, and adding extra flair is an industry standard he’s pioneered. This has been true as far back as 1996, when it spread to Europe with a blowout show at London’s Natural History Museum. The editors were sent into a frenzy when they met the rapping trio Naughty By Nature, with Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Karen Elson and P Diddy weaving around him.
The format was so well stuck. On cue, Friday night’s shows ended with a surprise performance from Grammy-winning singer Jon Batiste, who performed his hit Freedom. “You always have to turn that way,” he says. “If it’s just a simple fashion show, everything feels very boring.”