Tommy Hilfiger on Sustainability, the Future of Fashion Week and American Spirit

Lindsay Judge   |   02 - 09 - 2020

Tommy Hilfiger is synonymous with American fashion. After starting his career by co-founding a chain of jeans/ fashion stores called People’s Place in the 1970s, designing preppy American-inspired clothing, the designer went on two launch his Tommy Hilfiger menswear line in 1984. He later expanded into womenswear, still in keeping with the preppy, American heritage.


By 1995 Hilfiger was named Menswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of American and he had made a household name for himself. Throughout the years Tommy Hilfiger has had a strong affiliation with the world of pop culture. He has collaborated with numerous celebrities, musicians and talent, carefully aligning the brand with people who are current and keep his vision moving forward.


In the early 2000s, Tommy Hilfiger was revived as a brand, with a focus on fragrance as well as clothes, leading to global success in the beauty industry as well as in fashion. And by 2004 the Tommy Hilfiger group had over 5,400 employees. In 2010 Tommy Hilfiger was acquired by PVH Corp, but Tommy continues to play a huge role in the company. The designer attracted global attention in 2017 when he launched the TommyXGigi clothing collection in partnership with model Gigi Hadid. He also introduced the Tommy Now concept and was among the first to offer the ‘see now, buy now’ concept with his runway collections.


Today, Tommy Hilfiger is present in over 100 countries, with 2,000 retail stores worldwide. It continues to stay true to its DNA and American heritage while pushing the boundaries when it comes to technology, innovation and sustainability. In the latest chapter, Tommy Hilfiger is focusing on its sustainable practices and ways to bring the product to the consumer in the safest, most convenient and ethically friendly way. To tell us more about this as well as the plans for the future and the true values and vision of the brand, we talk to the Founder and Principal Designer of the brand; Tommy Hilfiger.



Tommy Hilfiger is a true American success story – how would you define the US market and the American fashion industry?

The American fashion industry is much younger than in countries like the United Kingdom, France and Italy. When I started in the 70s, there was an opportunity to really make a mark. It was the perfect time to create the next American heritage brand. That’s exactly what I dreamed of. This freedom to push the boundaries makes the US one of the most entrepreneurial markets in the world. Today, it’s so inspiring to see so many emerging American talents take the centre stage.


In your own words, how would you describe the universe of Tommy Hilfiger today?

We celebrate the modern American spirit while wasting nothing and welcoming all. More than ever, we want to stand up for what’s right and champion sustainability in the industry.


How do you think the values and culture of the United States are reflected through Tommy Hilfiger?

The American spirit is unique in that we believe anyone can do anything. Dreaming big no matter who you are or where you come from has always been at the core of the brand. We value diversity, inclusivity and welcoming people from all walks of life to come together. This was the founding philosophy behind my first store, People’s Place, and continues to live through the brand today.



The COVID-19 situation has had a dramatic effect on the globe but moreover on the US economy and the fashion industry in specific – will there be any change in your strategy moving forward?

The industry is realising that the entire fashion calendar and framework need to change. Everyone is asking: What really matters? Which parts of the past are worth returning to? How can we work together to move forward more sustainably? By answering these questions, the industry can return with a far more sustainable approach and in a way that’s closer to the consumer.


What can you tell us about the fall/winter 2020 collection and what’s coming up for the rest of the year?

In our upcoming collections, we are continuing to build on our sustainability journey. This means incorporating more sustainable methods and materials at every step, as well as creating more accessible styles for all.



Can you share with us a little about your creative process – what inspires you, how do you choose materials etc.?

I find inspiration all around me. from the music I listen to, to the art I enjoy, to the street style I see in my everyday life. Over the last few months, I have felt especially inspired by our amazing fans. The way they rally behind the causes they believe in has truly moved me. They want change. And they want it now. This call to action runs throughout our upcoming collections in how they are made, and what they are made of, and had a big influence on how we created them.


What are your thoughts on the future of the traditional runway show format and how do you foresee the future of fashion weeks?

The future of the runway is digital and moving away from rigid schedules. As a brand, we’ve been playing in this field for years. Since our first TOMMYNOW runway experience in 2016, we democratized fashion by hosting hundreds of thousands of ‘virtual attendees’ across a range of platforms. We found that emotion and engagement can be just as powerful in the digital space, which is what the shows are all about. We’re excited to continue innovating and pushing the boundaries as we debut new collections.



You must have seen many brands succeed and fail throughout your career – what would you say are the secrets to success and surviving as a global brand today?

Stay true to what you know and believe in. Surround yourself with a hard-working team of fantastic people. Know your business’ numbers inside and out.


What can you tell us about sustainability at Tommy Hilfiger?

Our mission is to drive change throughout the industry by creating fashion that “Wastes Nothing and Welcomes All”. To respect our planet’s limitations, we want our products to be made for life and part of a fully circular loop. At the same time, our sustainability vision means becoming a brand that is always inclusive, completely accessible and provides an opportunity for all.


What can you tell us about the direction and vision of the company moving forward?

We are really stepping up our commitment to drive meaningful, long-term change for greater diversity and inclusivity. Through our new People’s Place Program, we are working hard to advance minority representation throughout the fashion industry. We’ve made a real shift towards a culture of greater listening, learning and engaging so that we can do a better job supporting underrepresented communities within our organisation, and externally.



Throughout your career you have been very dedicated to your charity work – what are some of the causes that you hold dear to your heart today and what changes would you like to be a part of?

Creating accessible fashion is important to me. Having children with special needs, I saw firsthand how difficult something as simple as getting dressed in the morning can be. I believe no one should struggle to find clothing or brands that represent them. Regardless of gender, body type, physical needs or race, the industry should be inclusive of every person. I’m proud that our brand is playing a big part in this field.


Over the years we have seen the brand partnering with many high-profile celebrities – how important are celebrity alignments to your brand and how do you go about identifying representatives that fit the brand’s DNA?

We always look for dreamers who use their voice for good. All of our brand ambassadors worked hard to make their dreams a reality. They believed in themselves before anyone else did. They stayed true to their character, their values and themselves. They are true role models and the kind of inspirations we love to work with.


You have achieved so much in your career – what is there that you would still like to do that you haven’t done yet?

We can achieve far more in making a positive impact on the fashion industry. We want to lead the way in creating a culture of sustainable fashion, both in terms of inclusivity and circularity. We have made great strides, but there is still a long way to go. I’m determined to keep working towards this goal, and optimistic we will achieve it.


What is the professional motto you live by?

Never stop dreaming big and work hard to make your dreams a reality.


What can you tell us about Tommy Hilfiger in the Middle East and what are your thoughts on the Middle East market in general and the fashion here?

I have always admired the Middle East’s deep love of fashion. People take great pride in their personal style and make it a significant part of their identities. I find the region’s sense of style very elegant and suited to our iconic, timeless pieces.