Happy Birthday Tommy Hilfiger: In Celebration of the Great American Designer

by Paddy Ghaemi

Happy 67th Birthday, Tommy Hilfiger!

Tommy Hilfiger: a brand created by a man who lived the American Dream… Tommy Hilfiger created the eponymous company that flourished and made him an American icon. From creating his first company at the age of 18 to becoming a household name, Tommy Hilfiger has a lot to celebrate! 

People’s Place

Hilfiger was first inspired by the musicians of the time: Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Who and The Stones. Having grown up in the ’60s during the prime years of Woodstock and hippie fashion, he realized that people found his style cool and rebellious. 

 

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He decided to open a store with two of his friends — People’s Place became Hilfiger’s first business venture. The group would go to New York City buy “hippie wear” (bell bottoms, peasant blouses, leather jackets, etc.). With People’s Place also selling incense and music records, it was the ultimate cool kid store. People’s Place flourished into a chain store around colleges and before he knew it Hilfiger had a six-figure income.

Paddy Ghaemi writes about the american designer Tommy Hilfiger and his career in the fashion retail and design industries 
People’s Place

However, he had learned the tricks of the business world the hard way; in 1977, he had to file for a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Hilfiger didn’t let his failure paint his world black; instead, he learned and continued.

After People’s Place ended Tommy went on to pursue fashion design, applying and working for multiple companies even getting a job offer with Calvin Klein. However after Hilfiger met the businessman Mohan Murjani, the two had something else up their sleeves. In 1985, Hilfiger and Mohan Murjani created Tommy Hilfiger to create menswear. To get the company going they started by taking one of the biggest risks, hiring George Lois to create: Tommy Hilfiger’s hangman ad campaign.

Paddy Ghaemi writes about the american designer Tommy Hilfiger and his career in the fashion retail and design industries 
The billboard that put Tommy Hilfiger on the map | Photo Credit: Getty

It was advertising genius that made advertising history and solidified Tommy Hilfiger’s position in the fashion world.

The 90s

As Hilfiger always does, he used music and pop culture to emphasize his brand. Musicians like Snoop Dogg, Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, and even Britney Spears were seen wearing Tommy Hilfiger. In the ’90s, hip-hop was poppin’ and so was Hilfiger.  

Paddy Ghaemi writes about the american designer Tommy Hilfiger and his career in the fashion retail and design industries 
Snoop Dogg repping Tommy Hilfiger on SNL | Photo Credit: NBC

When it came to branding, Tommy Hilfiger knew exactly who to call. If you were famous with the youth and involved in pop culture you were wearing Tommy Hilfiger. However, branding can only do so much. Eventually, people look for new styles — which brings us to the 2000s.

Paddy Ghaemi writes about the american designer Tommy Hilfiger and his career in the fashion retail and design industries 
Aaliyah | Photo Credit: Buzzfeed

The 2000s

Hilfiger took a turn for the worst in the 2000s. His designs started losing popularity with the hip-hop community, and his sales dropped by 75% percent. To save his company he tried many techniques in 2005, he hosted the show “The Cut” where the winning designer would get to work closely with him and create a designer collection. However, sales still declined, and he was forced to sell his company for 1.6 million to Apax Partners and signed a deal with Macy’s. In 2009 they tried to raise sales by launching Hilfigerdenim.com as a way to get people to stay caught up with their latest trends in denim. In March 2010, Tommy Hilfiger (the brand) was purchased for 3 billion by the American clothing company, Phillips Van Heusen, and things started to shine a little better for the Hilfiger group.

The 2010s

Tommy Hilfiger made a comeback by embracing youth culture and nostalgia a key element of his. He came in with full force by creating a couple collections with Gigi Hadid. TommyXGigi was a major win for both brands. They had 4 runway shows together: LA, Paris, London, Milan.

Paddy Ghaemi writes about the american designer Tommy Hilfiger and his career in the fashion retail and design industries 

Tommy Pier: New York

Happy Birthday Tommy Hilfiger: In Celebration of the Great American Designer
Photo Credits: Courtesy Photo

The excitement was real for this collection. I remember having it pulled up on my laptop ten minutes before it aired.  I was in my dorm waiting to watch Gigi Hadid’s new collection. The collection was perfectly targeted to young adults. A perfect way to get Tommy Hilfiger back into the lives of the youth.

Paddy Ghaemi writes about the american designer Tommy Hilfiger and his career in the fashion retail and design industries 
Looks from Tommy Pier | Photo Credit: Fashionbashon.com

TommyLand: Venice Beach

Tommyland gave us the perfect California girl style. Trying to get that western glow? You better be wearing stripes and asymmetrical patterns. Don’t forget to pull out your denim.

Paddy Ghaemi writes about the american designer Tommy Hilfiger and his career in the fashion retail and design industries 
Photo Credit: Mattgstyle.com

Tommy Now: Rock Circus, London

In London Hilfiger reminded us of the British invasion by bringing back the rock ‘n roll look of leather, floral prints and flowy clothing. There’s nothing better than when Tommy Hilfiger is influenced by rock music. 

Paddy Ghaemi writes about the american designer Tommy Hilfiger and his career in the fashion retail and design industries 
Looks from Tommy Now | Photo Credit: British GQ

Tommy Now: Drive, Milan

Nothing can say America more than Nascar and race car driving. Racetracks are hotter than ever in this season’s TommyXGigi collection.

Paddy Ghaemi writes about the american designer Tommy Hilfiger and his career in the fashion retail and design industries 
Photo Credit: PBS

What’s Next

Tommy Hilfiger has been super successful because of his advertising and PR skills. He knows how to use the most enticing pop culture figures of the time and repeatedly manages to connect with younger generations, keeping them shopping. So what does Tommy have in store for us next? Who knows! But I am excited to see how he will top his TommyXGigi collection.

Happy Birthday Tommy Hilfiger and thank you for bringing us designs that will forever represent our American culture. •

Paddy Ghaemi writes about the american designer Tommy Hilfiger and his career in the fashion retail and design industries 
Destiny’s Child in Tommy Hilfiger | Photo Credit: Via Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Paddy Ghaemi writes about the american designer Tommy Hilfiger and his career in the fashion retail and design industries 
Kate Moss | Photo Credit: REXUSA
Paddy Ghaemi writes about the american designer Tommy Hilfiger and his career in the fashion retail and design industries 
The cast of the ’98 film, The Faculty | Photo Credit: Buzzfeed

Paddy Ghaemi is a sophomore English major from Houston, Texas. This is her first semester writing for Spark’s blog. In her spare time, she enjoys going to the gym, exploring Austin’s coffee and food scene, or just Netflixing the night away.

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