The titan is back. Tommy Hilfiger is set to bring the inimitable energy his namesake label’s shows are known for to the New York Fashion Week calendar this season, marking his first outing in the city since his memorable (and rainy!) moment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in September 2022. Ahead of the hotly anticipated show, we took a stroll down memory lane to recall some greatest hits.
What made it feel like the right time to show again, and how are you feeling?
We’re excited to return to our home turf—the birthplace of the brand and the city where it all started. Fashion shows generate such amazing energy and really allow us the opportunity to connect and engage with consumers globally across our social platforms. We’ve chosen a Manhattan institution. It’s somewhere New Yorkers have come together for 100 years—a place that mirrors the soul and dreams of the city itself. It’s elegant, historic, and quintessential New York. We’re going to put on a night for the books!
Tell us more about the concept: A New York Moment.
We like redefining the Fashion Week experience. We’re always doing something a bit different. I don’t want to just have a traditional normal fashion show. I think it’s a waste of time and money, and it’s boring. Even if the clothes and the models look great walking back and forth…there has to be more than that! It has to be an experience and something that’s part of our brand’s DNA.
Take us back to your first-ever show.
Well, in 1985 when I started the brand, there was a menswear group and most of the designers would show just outside of New York City, in Rye. It was sort of a long weekend of men’s fashion shows. So that was one of the first. When we moved to a location on 39th Street, we decided to have our fashion shows in-house. As time went on, we needed more space, so we moved over to Bryant Park. And that was a bit of a big change for the entire industry.
You were the very last brand to ever show there, closing out the season in 2010. What made it such a memorable time for NYFW?
There was a real buzz around the neighborhood during that stretch of five to seven days. There were trucks up and down 40th Street and Sixth Avenue, limos pulling up, celebrities on the sidewalks, and models running around. If you wanted a glimpse into the fashion world, you would go right there because it was all contained in this one area. And it was a one-stop-shop for us. We would take a tent, the bleachers were set up, the lighting and sound systems were there. We had to do a bit of set decoration, but the hair and makeup and backstage area was set, and they had security. Fern Mallis was really the innovator. She created it with Stan Herman, and she was at every single show.
Were you one of the first brands to try the format of showing in other venues and creating purpose-built sets?
Yes, I think we were one of the first. But then over the past eight or nine years, we started taking the show on the road and touring the world. So we did a carnival show at The Pier, and it was so successful. The next show was in California at Venice Beach. Then we went to London, Paris, Shanghai, Milan, and started moving around with this sort of spectacular experience that was very unusual and highly produced.
The 2016 show you mentioned, when you transformed Pier 16 into a carnival, was a huge moment in Fashion Week history. Take us back to that time.
We had just done a big collaboration with Gigi Hadid-you’d heard a little bit about collaborations, but people weren’t really doing collaborations then!-and we made it into a very authentic collaboration whereby Gigi herself was designing the collection with our team. She spent hours in our design studios choosing all the details. We wanted to launch it with the idea that she was not only our muse, but the face of our brand and a real partner with us in the whole experience. We needed to stage an idea that would be open to the public and at the same time, an experience that would be unforgettable. So we created the New York carnival that appeared downtown. It was game-changing because it was “See Now, Buy Now.” Nobody had ever done a fashion show that was open to the public! Most were buyers and press, period. We had shops, and people could click and buy from the runway. We said, “Okay, this is where we’re going in, at least, the near future.” It was, I would say, epic. Taylor Swift and some of the Kardashians were sitting front row, and we had a celebrity-studded runway, but Gigi was the star. The clothes were incredible, and the music was beyond. And the after-party may be still going!
You were an early adopter of the celebrity collaborator model. In what ways has working with tastemakers like Gigi, Zendaya, and Lewis Hamilton kept the brand fresh and relevant?
I think globally were known as a designer brand that is diverse, inclusive, but always with a dynamic surprise. When we launched the Zendaya collection, it was incredible. When we launched the Lewis Hamilton collaboration, it was also a game changer. I think people want something unique. They want to walk away from a show or an event thinking that it was a memorable and credible experience that they’ll never forget.
We’re curious! What do you think is the recipe for a show that will be remembered as iconic?
They’re about more than just fashion-they’re about making a bold statement. You need an epic moment; something that keeps people talking. It’s also about having a killer cast, as well as an audience made of industry insiders, tastemakers, and creative pioneers. Music plays a crucial part, too. It needs to be right to set the vibe and maximize the energy of the show. We also want to show relevant wearable, affordable, American classic cool style. Were focused on having a signature product that will be here today and here tomorrow-timeless classics, you could say, but they also have to be relevant. They can’t just be boring classics. So we put a lot of time and effort into designing what we think is special, while always embracing our core values.
Classic and cool leads us to our next question: You always have your finger on the pulse. What is it about a collaborator or a campaign face that makes you want to work with them?
We believe in F.A.M.E.S: Fashion, Art, Music, Entertainment, and Sports. We like to blend it together. We feel that it’s important to celebrate the different celebrities and influencers who are in the Zeitgeist, in the eye of the storm of what’s going on in pop culture today. And that’s not something new, that’s something I’ve been doing for almost 40 years. When we brought Tommy Hilfiger to London in the early ’90s and had Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell on the runway with Treach, a rapper from New York, people had never seen anything like that. They didn’t know what hip-hop was. They didn’t know what a rapper or a hip-hop musician even represented or looked like. Then we created a show at Madison Square Garden [in 2000] with Gavin Rossdale and Bush. That was when we did modern-day cowboys and the models were wearing the multicolored eagle bustiers, motorcycle jackets, and snakeskin. It was sort of “over the top rock-rap fashion.”
What came next?
Fast-forward to February 2015, we went to the Park Avenue Armory and built a football stadium, with models on the Astroturf wearing a ’70s rock ‘n’ roll vibe. That was Kendall Jenner’s first runway show, modeling for us. When we went to Venice Beach, after we did the New York carnival show, that was a moment in and of itself. Gigi closed the show jumping into the back of Lady Gaga’s white Rolls Royce in a maxi dress! And Fergie performed after the show. In September 2018, we went to Shanghai and we did our show against the backdrop of the Bund and Shanghai skyline with Lewis Hamilton. In 2019, when we did the collaboration with Zendaya at the Apollo Theater in New York, it was sort of on the street in Harlem in front of the brownstones, and it gave the appearance of an ultra chic city block with classic cars and musical performers. And when we went to Paris, Grace Jones closed the Zendaya show! That was a moment. So we’ve always been about creating these experiences; doing fashion shows that had some sort of unique Tommy twist to them. And now we’re rewriting the chapter or the book on how to do it in a new way.
What can we expect from this show? Will there be a collaborator tie-in?
We’ve decided to pivot, and do something a bit different. I think it will be an iconic show. It’s a modern expression of “Classic American Cool.” We’re soaking up the pulse of the city, its culture of confidence, and its openness, and translating that to the runway. We’re inviting our New York family to give it an authentic and intimate feel. We’re excited about the clothes, the casting, and the entire experience. So here we are again, a new chapter in fashion and fashion shows!
You’ll be presenting Fall/Winter 2024 this time. Why follow the traditional industry format again?
See Now, Buy Now moved off the Fashion Week runway and into the cultural conversation. Everything we do today, from F1 campaigns to talent partnerships to Fashion Week parties, is about a 24/7 “See Now, Buy Now” ecosystem around tommy.com. In the future, fashion shows will have immediate delivery on certain items, and seasonally, we find new ways to deliver the instant gratification and feeling of being a part of something that was previously only for an exclusive few.
What’s really making you feel excited and hopeful about the future of New York Fashion Week?
I think NYFW will come back as a strong presence in the fashion world, and I hope to be a part of that. There’s a tremendous amount of talent around, and the talent has to have a platform to be able to show their work. The CFDA and IMG have been helpful over the years, and we mentor young designers coming up, too. We’re one of the fashion capitals of the world. It’s New York, after all! But it’s different from London and Paris. We have to all embrace it and we have to have a great time with it, and enjoy the moments and the experience.
We’re sure you’ve had every name under the sun sitting in your front rows over the years. But if you could see a lineup that’s thoroughly meaningful to you, who would be sitting there?
Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Snoop Dogg…I mean, it could go on andon and on! We’re seating our front rows with today’s versions of those types of stars. The influencer world is also important because these influencers have a say in what is going on in fashion and pop culture. We’re talking about, as I said before, Fashion, Art, Music, Entertainment, and Sports. That’s what pop culture is all about today, and it moves the needle in society from Tokyo to Shanghai to Dublin to Rio de Janeiro and then back to L.A. and New York. The pop culture melting pot is very powerful in voicing what is happening today. At times, we’re all talking about a certain musician, other times we’re talking about an athlete, or an artist, or a personality. We’re always living within the culture, paying attention to who’s who and what’s next. I think it’s pretty exciting, especially with social media fueling it all.
What’s ahead for the rest of the year for the brand?
We’re going to celebrate our red, white, and blue DNA and what America has always represented—limitless possibility. There are some partnerships in the works with modern cultural icons that we can’t wait to reveal. The space where fashion and sport meet has always inspired me, and we’re going to continue to build on it. There’s lots to come!
Photography: Caroline Fiss
Styling: FREYA DROHAN
Hair: STEPHALINA AMADOR FOR MOROCCANOIL, DONNA FUMOSO
Makeup: DAWN BROCCO, ALICIA D’ANGELO, AMRITA MEHTA FOR MAYBELLINE NEW YORK
Tailor: MAISIE-KATE KEANE
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