Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Currently Known For:
Tommy Hilfiger Corporation
March 24, 1951
Of all of the industries that you can try to break into, the fashion industry is one of the hardest. Not only are there plenty of established brands that can create products en masse at cheaper prices, but your designs might not be pleasing to a large enough audience to make a profit. Many of the easily recognizable brands have been around for generations, while one is a relative newcomer, at least in terms of the industry. That man and his brand is Tommy Hilfiger, who has helped build a fashion empire in the past 30 plus years.
Hilfiger was born in the city of Elmira, New York on March 24, 1951 and unlike many in the fashion business, didn’t come from a line of people in the industry. Instead, the Hilfiger family had a focus on music, and Tommy considered trying to become a professional musician. Instead, after graduating from high school, Hilfiger decided to skip out on college and the standard career path that many expect to follow.
“In the late 60s, when the hippie revolution was taking place, all of my friends and I wanted to look like rock stars,” Hilfiger said of his beginnings in fashion. “The Beatles, the ‘Stones, the Who, Jimi Hendrix - these are the people we wanted to look like, and they were all wearing long hair and bell bottoms. We wore long hair and bell bottoms to school, and the other kids wanted to look like us.”
Hilfiger had moved to Massachusetts, where he hadn’t yet had the money to start his own stores. Instead, he was working for someone else and saving every dime that he had so he could open a small store in his hometown in a shared building. Hilfiger didn’t design his own clothes, though, instead going to the big city to purchase clothing and bring them back to Elmira, selling them at a higher price point. It worked for a few years, but the small store started to run out of money, and Hilfiger declared bankruptcy for his first business.
Some might have folded from their dreams at that point, but Hilfiger instead used it as a lesson. “It taught me the importance of balancing the creative and business sides of owning a company,” he said. “It became the best lesson I ever learned and gave me everything I needed to know to start up again. I was determined to follow my dreams and build a global lifestyle brand.”
He eventually started taking college classes so that he could learn the business better, which really helped him in the long run. Hilfiger headed back to New York City once again where he started another business, calling it Tommy Hill. As he entered his 30s and the 1980s, Hilfiger began to find success in the fashion world.
Hilfiger’s success with this business came from jeans, and with the knowledge that he learned from the business side of things, he started to design clothing himself. By 1985, Hilfiger had enough investors and prior success that he was able to start his own corporation that bears his name. That, of course, would be the company that’s still in business and highly recognizable today. The rest of the 1980s saw success for the company, while the 1990s became the time when Hilfiger’s business had boomed tremendously.
The logo was recognizable, and the fashion could be seen just about everywhere. From celebrities on the red carpet to the parents in their suburban homes, that simple red, white and blue logo was easily spotted. The success in the 2000s wasn’t quite what it was in the 1990s, but Hilfiger was already an established brand at that point with a lot of loyal customers and many brands under its umbrella.
In 2010, Hilfiger had cashed in big time on his success, with the Hilfiger Corporation being purchased for billions of dollars by Phillips-Van Heusen. That didn’t mean Hilfiger went happily into retirement like many would, though, as he stuck around as the company’s top designer. The sale of his company along with his continued career has made Hilfiger incredibly wealthy, too, with an estimated net worth of $400 million.
Despite being in his 60s, Hilfiger is still a very trendy man who is finely in tune with changing styles and new celebrities. “Pop culture has influenced my designs throughout my career,” he said. “I’ve always embraced change, evolution and innovation - that’s what pop culture is all about. Staying on the pulse of pop culture has helped to keep our brand relevant generation after generation.”
He added that “Fashion is constantly evolving. Our brand DNA is all about adding a fresh twist to classic American cool designs. I love seeing how our fans combine their own style to our modern designs.” So far, it’s worked out tremendously for the industry icon, who has helped lead fashion from the Beatles era, to the Britney Spears era and now the Beyonce era. Still, he says it was a stroke of luck that came at the right time. He talks about how the 1960s “had the coolest fashion. It’s when I discovered my love for designing and when people in America started expressing themselves more. This era had a great impact on the fashion world.”