Welcome to my preppy world

di Fabio Gibellino

Tommy Hilfiger, the standard bearer of US style, is rethinking his stars-and-stripes imagery to aim at the high end of the market, helped along by the new production agreement it has signed with the Italian firm Ittierre.

Welcome to my preppy world

One of the most important features of New York Fashion Week was Tommy Hilfiger's signature style. The Tommy Hilfiger show hailed in the new, revolutionizing the concept of preppy, a concept to which the American fashion house has always been strongly linked. “It's not a matter of rethinking … in fact, it is not even a change. It is quite simply a matter of evolving. All brands evolve over time, and must always be moving, because motion underlies the nature of all things,” explained Hilfiger. The label plans to close FY 2011 with revenues of at least $2.9 bn, and with this collection it will launch the agreement with the Ittierre group: starting in autumn-winter 2012-13 the Italian group will produce and distribute the US brand’s main men’s and women’s lines, as well as accessories, through this agreement, which is a ‘five years plus three’ contract.

What was at the origin of this evolution?

We are known for our preppy world, and we are its forerunners and top exponents. When I started working on this season, I aimed at a new concept of preppy. This is a collection that aims high, at ready-to-wear garments, while remaining connected to the Hilfiger style through several common points which are readily discernible in the free spirit that has driven the revival of certain traditional garments.

What are the objectives and who are the competitors of this new Tommy Hilfiger?

My natural competitor is Ralph Laurent, mostly because he is American like me, but there are many others around, because the world of fashion is truly vast. Having said that, my idea does not involve looking out for potential competitors. When I conceived and designed this collection, I tried to create something unique and easily recognisable. I thought of a military-preppy style, and I looked at military academies and their young cadets. Then I thought that these future officers are not just men in uniform, but they also live for sport and love riding motorcycles, and they enjoy city life as well as the country.

And what is involved in the development of these men? What is the aesthetic of the collection?

When I visualised the line, I started from a cadet concept, to which I added allusions closer to college life. Then I finished it off with a large dose of country style. So I chose fine materials such as leather and cashmere, and colours like burgundy, which in this case is my favourite, browns and navy for the day and deep blues and blacks for the evening. All this is brought together with a selection of precise, classic cuts and details that characterise the essence of the collection. My intention with these designs is to communicate luxury and superior quality. For accessories too, I worked using the concepts of inspiration and aspiration. I tried to bring together something fresh and new, starting with sure concepts, such as Oxford style.

Why did Tommy Hilfiger turn to military rigour for this evolution?

The choice of the military look was quite easy, because I believe that today, in contemporary fashion, it is really stylish. Military style is sophisticated and filled with details. And I would like to point out that it has nothing to do with politics or anything like that. It is purely stylistic inspiration.

When you came up with the military prep style, were you thinking of a particular market?

I thought about this collection in worldwide terms. My man is American, Asian, global, and certainly European, because Europe is a very important market for us.

Since we are talking about the market, in your opinion, how have the financial crises changed men's attitude to fashion in recent years?

I have not actually seen any significant changes in menswear. Rather, I have witnessed an evolution here too. What I mean is that I have not seen people not wanting to spend any more ‒ on the contrary, I have seen people willing to spend even more, and above all, to spend better, in order to find finer luxury and quality.

So, are you confident about the future? Is there is something in the works for 2012?

I am looking closely at Asia, and I will open stores in Tokyo and Hong Kong. I am always opening new shops – it is part of our policy – and I am also always looking for authentic locations.

And where is the perfect location?

Well, 5th Avenue in New York, to mention one. Let's just say that the perfect location is on all of the fashion world’s magical streets.

What market are you betting on for 2012?

That is an easy question to answer: China is the market for 2012.

And how did 2011 fare?

Quite well. Japan, considering everything that happened there, was slow. Germany turned out to be very strong, Britain made a welcome return, Turkey performed very well and Italy (our third largest European market, ed. note) grew.

This collection marks the debut of your collaboration with Ittierre. How did it go?

I am very happy with the work we did with Ittierre. They were very professional and perfectly understood what I wanted. They were well prepared and prompt.