For the past five years, American designer Tommy Hilfiger has been producing lavish fashion shows and touring them around the world – an unusual approach, when most designers only participate in one city’s fashion week. His desire to think outside the box isn’t new. In 1999 he famously took over Madison Square Garden to present his collection, years before Kanye West did the same.
“I have this fear of being irrelevant or stale,” Hilfiger said in an interview at his London office, the day before his Spring 2020 show – held in the cavernous, concrete Tanks exhibition space at London’s Tate Modern gallery. “I’m always looking for disruption and breakthrough.”
A profile of Hilfiger could easily be summarized in one sentence: the man synonymous with the colors red, white and blue. Since founding his company in 1985, he has been one of the designers – along with Ralph Lauren and Gant – that have globalized the preppy American aesthetic. Now, with 2000 stores in 191 countries, he is part of a rare group of designers whose name resonates beyond the fashion industry.
“When I started Tommy Hilfiger, I thought it’d be incredible to not only be an inclusive brand, but a non-exclusive brand,” he said.
“I wanted to reach a broader audience and I didn’t have money for advertising at the time,” he added. “But I thought if I had cool musicians wearing the clothes, then their fans would come to me and want to emulate the stars.”
He famously dressed Destiny’s Child, when they were just starting, as well as Britney Spears, David Bowie, and Sheryl Crow. “I was first with using celebrities in advertising for fashion,” he said. “This is before (fashion) magazines used celebrities on their covers.”
For years Hilfiger has surrounded himself with pop culture icons, and this season was no different. Following past collaborations with Gigi Hadid and Zendaya, Hilfiger traveled to London to present a three-way collection with British Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton, and singer H.E.R.
“I grew up a fan of Tommy,” Hamilton said in an interview in London. “He’s given me a platform to be able to express myself…In the racing world I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin, it’s not a diverse industry.”
At the Tate show the runway was awash with recognizable faces including models Halima Aden, Luka Sabbat, Winnie Harlow and Naomi Campbell.
“We want to be inclusive, stay relevant and as youthful as we possibly can,” Hilfiger said.
Hilfiger and Hamilton have collaborated before but for this, their fourth collection together, they wanted to join the ranks of brands pushing forward sustainability efforts, with over 75% of the collection created using lower-impact manufacturing processes.
“We’re always looking at the future…so sustainability is a big opportunity for us to do the right thing in society,” Hilfiger said.
Over the five years the designer has been bringing his shows to fashion weeks around the world, they have grown to 1000-guest events, and he compares them to a “big Broadway musical.”
It’s a bit like putting together a “jigsaw puzzle,” he said, where you must orchestrate multiple teams responsible for timing all elements to perfection. “We create an experience that is really unforgettable,” he added. “I don’t believe in traditional fashion shows any longer.”