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Tommy Hilfiger, an American fashion pioneer looking to the future


At 71, the American designer is constantly renewing himself. He also signed a brand new collection: "Classics Reborn", a line that revisits and pays homage to his key pieces. We met him on Long Island. Immerse yourself in the Hilfiger universe.

We are about to enter the bowels of the Tommy Hilfiger collections.

These are meticulously stored in the Uovo art warehouse in Long Island City, fifteen minutes by taxi from Manhattan (New York): a space of approximately 2000 square meters which houses the very precious archives of several brands of the American group Philips-Van Heusen (PVH).

Tommy Hilfiger therefore, but also Calvin Klein and the "Heritage Brands" (Van Heusen, Arrow, Warner's, Olga, Izod and Geoffrey Beene).

At the reception, Becca Love – loose white shirt, pants with pockets and moccasins – is about to show the place.

For six years now, she has diligently reconstituted the Tommy Hilfiger collections.

It is 8:30 a.m., the buildings are slowly waking up;

the “tour guide” can begin.

An elevator and a few sleek corridors (including a blue gradient wall, a “work of art” we are told) and we find ourselves in the heart of the archives of one of the most emblematic designers of American fashion.

The one who built his empire and his reputation by revisiting the BCBG wardrobe (“preppy”, according to the American formula).

The strategy paid off.

Since its birth in 1985, the Tommy Hilfiger brand has become a

success story

, an "

American dream

which the United States is so fond of.

PVH Corp.

understood it well.

The proof: in 2010, the company listed on Wall Street spent no less than 3 billion dollars to acquire the label.

That's nearly seven times what she paid for Calvin Klein in 2003. For one good and simple reason: Tommy Hilfiger is a hit (especially in Europe).

It must be said that it has been trying for years to speak to all genres, classes, ages, including the younger generation... The future in a way.

And that is the whole objective of this space tucked away on Long Island: to collect archival items, list them, restore them if necessary, keep them well, to better understand what happens next.

The Uovo Art Warehouse in Long Island City houses the Tommy Hilfiger Archives.

Tommy Hilfiger

Valuable archives

Because yes, the role of archives is that.

Serve as a fulcrum to develop new clothing lines.

The proof: Tommy Hilfiger has just unveiled "Classics Reborn", a line of clothing that revisits the brand's great basics: "Oxford" shirts, chinos, rugby polo... All worn by "nepo babies" (Georgia May Jagger, Dylan and Paris Brosnan, Sean Koons and many others), a term that refers to the social reproduction of cultural elites.

Georgia May Jagger, ambassador for the "Classics Reborn" collection.

Tommy Hilfiger

Bringing together all the collections also means tracing the thread of the brand's history.

To, one day or another, be part of posterity and bear witness to its role in the history of fashion.

In this case, Tommy Hilfiger has played a leading role in the United States and in pop culture.

As we circulate and stroll between the shelves, we discover around 20,000 items listed, sorted, kept in the cool, dry air, found right and left.

Some pieces from the beginnings of Tommy Hilfiger are missing, "so we look for them online, we even buy them on Ebay", notes Becca Love, the head of the archives.

Contrary to popular belief, the clothes rails don't only house V-neck sweaters, puffy down jackets and “Oxford” shirts (a brand classic).

Good basics, of course, but a bit “traditional”.

Unlike Calvin Klein, king of minimalism, Tommy Hilfiger dubs maximalism.

And there's something for everyone: leather, appliqués, beads, embroidery, animal print, red, white and blue.

The Tommy Hilfiger archives have around 20,000 pieces: clothes, accessories and also lifestyle objects.

Tommy Hilfiger

Back to the past

The visit continues in this fashion sanctuary where you can spot the very first “Tommy” t-shirts, the only relics of a bygone era.

They are stained and flocked with a "People's Place", the name of his first shop.

The one who started it all in Elmira, New York, in 1969. Thomas Jacob Hilfiger, second in a family of nine children, was barely out of high school at the time.

He does not really want to join the benches of the university, but already has an attraction for business.

The future

self-made man

then, with two friends, founded a boutique selling custom flared jeans.

And this, without a penny in his pocket (or only a handful of dollars that he saved by working in a gas station).

The young man is right to believe it.

The concept meets with success;

it speaks to young Americans fond of music and fashion.

A few rock stars, including Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC, are soon also crossing the threshold to buy leather from People's Place.

Tommy Hilfiger in his first "People's Place" store.

Tommy Hilfiger

The Uovo archives are in fact just that: a step back in time.

A dive into the history of Tommy Hilfiger first, and more generally the history of the United States: its fashion, its youth, the evolution of consumption.

At the entrance, we spot roller skates, a Game Boy, a teddy bear, a disposable camera… All with the Tommy Hilfiger logo.

By searching the racks, we even come across a sweater branded “Coca-Cola”, a time when the partnership was undoubtedly less tendentious.

Celebrating “pop culture”

Further, rhinestones and sequins catch the eye.

These are unique pieces worn by a few celebrities: heeled ankle boots sported by Lady Gaga, sequined evening dresses, a sheepskin jacket by Zendaya… Pop culture in all its splendour.

Because Tommy understood very quickly: to break through, you have to be worn by stars.

“As a musician, my brother [Andy] really introduced me to the world of music, remembers Tommy Hilfiger who wanders in the middle of the aisles.

At the very beginning, we thought that if the musicians wore our clothes, then their fans would do the same.

So it's a habit that we have taken to dress the musicians, and we have always been close to the world of music.

Then we wanted to get closer to Hollywood, fame, fashion,

Years ago, the brand even sponsored concert tours.

Among which those of the Rolling Stones, Lenny Kravitz or Britney Spears.

Adored by Destiny's Child, Usher and Aaliyah, the self-taught designer has never ceased to be coveted by the cream of the crop, and has found his place.

Adapting to a youth that goes a hundred miles an hour.

We remember, for example, his collaborations with podium star Gigi Hadid, Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton, tennis player Rafael Nadal, but also Hollywood darling and pure Disney product, Zendaya.

Tommy x Zendaya fashion show at the Appolo Theater in Harlem.

(September 8, 2019, in New York City.) Dave Kotinsky/Tommy Hilfiger

Tommy also had flair when, unknown to the general public, he rented an advertising screen in Time's Square from the eighties.

His idea: the hangman game.

Nothing revolutionary and yet so effective.

On the giant panel, we then read: “The great American designers are R… L…, C… K…, T… H…” Everyone guesses without problem Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, but boot in touch for T… H….

No one knows who he is yet, but Tommy Hilfiger has already risen to the rank of the greatest.

Almost forty years have since passed.

Tommy Hilfiger is still there.

And at 71, Tommy Hilfiger does not intend (yet) to bow out.

Source: lefigaro

All life articles on 2023-03-20

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