Thomas Jacob “Tommy” Hilfiger (born March 24, 1951) is an American fashion designer best known for founding the lifestyle brand Tommy Hilfiger Corporation in 1985. After starting his career by co-founding a chain of clothing and record stores in upstate New Yorkin the 1970s, he began designing preppy sportswear for his own eponymous menswear line in the 1980sThe company later expanded into women’s clothing and various luxury items such as perfumes, and went public in 1992. In 1997, Hilfiger published his first book, titled All American: A Style Book, and he has written several since, including Tommy Hilfiger through Assouline in 2010Hilfiger’s memoirs American Dreamer, co-written with Peter Knobler, were published November 1, 2016.
Hilfiger’s collections are often influenced by the fashion of music subcultures and marketed in connection with the music industry, with celebrities such as American R&B icon Aaliyah in the 1990s. In 2005, contestants in the CBS reality show The Cut competed for a design job with Hilfiger in a similar fashion to The Apprentice In 2006, Hilfiger sold his company for $1.6 billion to Apax Partners, and it was sold again in 2010 to Phillips-Van Heusen for $3 billion. He remains the company’s principal designer, leading the design teams and overseeing the entire creative process. In 2012 Hilfiger was awarded the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Awardfrom the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Early life and education
Thomas Jacob “Tommy” Hilfiger was born March 24, 1951 in Elmira, New York. The second of nine children, both of his parents were practicing Catholics. His father Richard was a watchmaker of Dutch-German descent and his mother Virginia (née Gerrity) was a nurse of Irish descent Hilfiger also claims direct descent from the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Hilfiger has described his upbringing as very happy. He credits his parents with instilling a good work ethic and compassion for others. Hilfiger had an early interest in sports, fashion, and the music industry,[ a trend that ran in his family. One of his brothers, Andy Hilfiger, went on to work as a musician and designer, while Hilfiger’s other brother Billy Hilfiger would join King Flux as a guitarist. Hilfiger graduated from the Elmira Free Academy high school in 1970. His parents wanted him to get a college education and pursue a traditional career, and for a time he attended GST BOCES Bush Campus in Elmira.
Business and fashion career
People’s Place and early lines (1970s–1983)
Hilfiger spent the summer of 1969 working in a clothing store on Cape Cod, and afterwards he decided to use his life savings of $150 to open a clothing store with two friends. Opened in 1971 as People’s Place, the first store was located in downtown Elmira in what is now the site of First Arena, and had a hair salon, a record shop, and rock concerts in the basement. To stock the store, Hilfiger and his friends would drive to New York City to buy clothing such as bell-bottoms, peasant blouses, and leather jackets. Slightly unsatisfied with the clothing he bought from other suppliers, Hilfiger began sketching his own designs, and would later write that “designing made me happier than anything I’d ever done. I knew from that early work that designing would be my life.”
Despite its initial success, after seven years of selling “hippie supplies like bell-bottoms, incense and records” out of ten stores, the People’s Place went bankrupt in 1977, when Hilfiger was 25. He’s often referred to this point in his life as his real-world MBA. At this point Hilfiger enrolled in classes on commerce and the business side of the fashion industry. After then moving to New York City[ and working for several different labels, he set up a company called Tommy Hill in 1979, forming a design team at the age of 28. One of his first clients was Jordache Jeans, and as Hilfiger’s company expanded beyond denimhe spent time in India, learning more about his trade: “I would sit in the factory with my pile of sketches and watch them being made, tweaking as I went. There’s no better design school in the world.” In 1981 he founded the company 20th Century Survival, and the following year he founded Click Point, which designed women’s clothing.
Founding Tommy Hilfiger Inc. (1984–1990s)
See also: Tommy Hilfiger Corporation
After Tommy Hillfiger went through several iterations, in 1984 Hilfiger’s first wife Susie Cirona became pregnant with their first child. Searching for more stability, Hilfiger was relieved to be offered a design position with Calvin Klein. However, after he accepted the Calvin Klein position but before he had begun working, he was approached by businessman Mohan Murjani, to pursue his goal of designing and heading a men’s sportswear line. Murjani backed the necessary investment for Hilfiger to establish his own brand. Later Hilfiger oversaw the design of the Coca-Cola clothing line for Murjani.
“[Waiting to form my own eponymous line] came from a desire to create something that wasn’t out there already. I was really in tune with the market—I knew what existed, and I wanted this to be different. Maybe it’s the small-town boy in me, but I’ve always loved the prep school look, traditional Ivy League, and the clothes that sailors and jocks wear. I wanted to take these familiar old things and give them a more laid-back attitude, to make them modern and cool..[with Tommy Hilfiger Corporation in 1985], finally, I felt like I was doing work that felt natural, that felt good. The brand we were building felt so honest, so true to who I am, that it didn’t feel like a struggle at all.”
— Tommy Hilfiger in 2010
In 1985, he founded the Tommy Hilfiger Corporation with support from The Murjani Group. The new clothing line made its debut with a high-profile marketing campaign, for example setting up a large billboard in Times Square designed by George Lois. Hilfiger left Murjani International in 1989, with Silas Chou instead providing financial backing to the Hilfiger brand, and former executives of Ralph Lauren brought on board as executives of the newly formed company Tommy Hilfiger, Inc. The Tommy Hilfiger Corporation went public in 1992, introducing Hilfiger’s signature menswear collection. Hilfiger was named Menswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1995. After licensing Pepe Jeans USA in 1995, in 1996, Tommy Hilfiger Inc. began distributing women’s clothing. By the end of the next year Hilfiger had opened his first store in Beverly Hills, which was followed by a store in London in 1998 Hilfiger was serving as the company’s co-chairman by 1997, and that year he published his first book, titled All American: A Style Book.
Recent years and memoir (2012-2016)
Hilfiger was instrumental in the creation of the Marc Anthony Collection in 2012, as Marc Anthony had never been interested in the fashion business until Hilfiger called him and convinced him a line was worthwhile. In 2012, Hilfiger was awarded the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Global sales in retail for the brand in 2013 were US $6.4 billion, and $6.7 billion in 2014. Hilfiger remains the company’s principal designer, leading the design teams and overseeing the entire creative process. In 2016, he collaborated with model Gigi Hadid on clothing designs launching the TommyXGigi clothing collection. On February 8, 2017, the brand will hold its ready-to-wear show in Los Angeles, in the first time the brand will not be part of New York Fashion Week.
In January 2015, Hilfiger announced that he was working on his memoirs. The book was written chronologically over a year, with Hilfiger explaining “I was hesitant to write it, but thought I better do it now because someday I may forget.”[ Co-writer Peter Knobler had full access to interview friends and family, with Hilfiger citing the candor of Diane von Furstenberg‘s memoirs as an inspiration. Calling the writing process “great therapy” and “interesting,” Hilfiger asserted that he “wanted to give people a sneak peek of what goes on behind the curtain [of] how the fashion industry works.” He read selections from the book in June 2016 at the Literacy Partners Evening of Readers and Gala Dinner Dance. Hilfiger’s memoirs American Dreamer, co-written with Peter Knobler, were published November 1, 2016. In a statement, Hilfiger described it as “a roadmap of the moments that have defined both my [40-year fashion career] and my personal life,” and the book covers his childhood, his early business ventures, and his later life in fashion. With Kirkus Reviews calling it “an honest, straightforward, mostly entertaining autobiography,” Hilfiger made an appearance for the book at the Miami Book Fair shortly after its release. American Dreamer appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers List in December 2016
Credit to Wikipedia.org