Hilfiger hit the ground running in the 1980s, and in no time captured the attention of young urban American men with his preppy and cool styles. Over the years he expanded the line to include women, children, accessories, fragrances and home furnishings, turning the brand into a global fashion icon. He sold Tommy Hilfiger the brand in 2006 (it is now owned by Phillips-Van Heusen) but continues to be its face around the world.
When Hilfiger launched his first Indian store in 2004, he presciently told this magazine in an interview: “The fashion industry is poised to explode and India is definitely going global soon. I wanted to be here now. I am hoping my long term association with your country is renewed and yes, I will visit as often as my schedule permits.” Last month he was back in the country to celebrate Tommy Hilfiger’s 10 years in India. And he would have been happy with what he saw: 180 stores in 50 cities. To celebrate the occasion he even launched limited edition Tommy Hilfiger bandis for men and woolen shawls for women, exclusively for the local market. On his rushed three day trip, the 63 year- old sat down with MW to talk about his love for Indian style and the future of fashion.
You have been a longtime visitor to India, a regular even in your young days when you had still not launched Tommy Hilfiger the brand. What is the change you perceive when it comes to fashion?
Now when you look around, everyone is dressing casually. But global casual style, I mean you could be anywhere in the world, New York, Los Angeles or Paris and dress the same. It is not like you are in India and have to wear a sari, even though I think saris are very beautiful and I prefer seeing Indian women in their traditional clothing (I shouldn’t be saying that as we are trying to sell western styles here). But honestly, there is a big change in fashion that you can see here. We see the younger generation wearing more and more casual attires thanks to globalisation and the internet. Fashion blogs and websites have resulted in ‘casual chic’ which is exactly what Tommy Hilfiger stands for.
This year Tommy Hilfiger has completed 10 years in India. How do you view this experience?
It has been beyond all my expectations. I never expected it to be this great. I thought we would be successful here, but not this successful. We are in 50 cities and we have 180 stores here. We were the first international luxury brand here. I did not know at that time if it would be three years or five years before our brand catches on to the consumers here, but we caught on right away. India has embraced us and so did we. We’ve got great colours, we’ve got great style, we are affordable and we always keep it new and fresh which is why our customers keep coming back to us.
What was your idea behind creating a limited edition collection exclusively for India?
This collection is sort of a homage to what India means to us, what we know and believe this country is to us. I love Indian style, I love the Nehru look. If you notice, we use a lot of paisleys in most of our collections. But I’d love to see more men sporting the denim version of the Nehru look. The shawl which is created exclusively for India can be worn as a fashion accessory while keeping you warm.
Technology is creeping up in fashion, one example being your collaboration with Pvilion to create solar-powered coats. How do you see the future of this amalgamation between fashion and technology?
I thought it would be really interesting to experiment with what could very likely be the future. I think ‘tech fashion’ could be the part of the future that we are heading towards. It makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean I’m forever trying to charge my phone, but if I could just drop it in my jacket pocket and it charges on its own – that would be so cool.
Blue, red and white is synonymous with Tommy Hilfiger. How do you keep your brand’s American preppy look constant and relevant with seasonal fashion changes in trends?
At Tommy Hilfiger we are always evolving as a brand, trying to keep it fresh and new, at the same time being true to our identity by connecting these trends to our brand. But we do keep ourselves aware of what the customer expects from us.