The History Of Tommy Hilfiger

Young Entrepreneur

Tommy Hilfiger, born 24 March 1951 was a small dyslexic boy with a gift nobody expected. His entrepreneurial side was awoken at a young age. In his teen years, he would travel to New York over 200 miles away from his hometown, buy jeans in bulk and tailor or customize them before selling them to his fellow students for a profit.

His money-making prowess was further evidenced after he finished school as an 18-year-old when he set up his own shop. The store was called ‘The People’s Place’ which sold hippie style goods for a high-profit margin and before you knew it, there were multiple stores and Tommy was earning a six-figure salary as a man in his mid-20s ($100,000 in 1977 is $403,000 today). Hilfiger didn’t even identify with the hippie movement but saw that there was an unexplored market in his local area.

Expansion

Ten years after he opened his shop, he moved to Manhattan to chase his dream of becoming a fashion designer. In 1984, Hilfiger began to work with Indian businessman Mohan Murjani. The entrepreneur needed a designer and was one of the few partners Tommy could find who would allow him to use his own (then unknown) name on his sportswear.

The two burst onto the fashion scene with bombastic arrogance, renting a billboard in Times Square implying Tommy Hilfiger was the next Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein or Perry Ellis. This enraged the designers and caused a lot of talk within the fashion industry against Tommy Hilfiger, although like they say, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”. Tommy Hilfiger got their name out quickly and set themselves up as villainous, rebel designers in an industry full of companies with safe, humdrum brand images.

Tommy & Hip Hop

This rebel advertising path quickly picked up. The preppy clothes were selling well amongst their assumed target market, but, to Tommy’s surprise, the clothes became extremely popular amongst the Hip Hop community, with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Aaliyah, Raekwon and Q-Tip sporting heavily branded Tommy shirts, jackets and sports bras. When Snoop Dogg performed in this Tommy rugby shirt on SNL, sales were driven to an all-time high.

The popularity of Hilfiger’s clothes in the hip-hop world soon fell off in the late 90s when rumours began to circulate that Tommy Hilfiger was a racist, this has neither been proven nor disproven. In a 2012 interview, Hilfiger addressed the rumours and said “It hurt for a long period of time, not from a business standpoint because our business doubled in that time,” Hilfiger said. “It went from $1 billion to $2 billion in that time. But it hurt here" [placing hand on his heart].

Loved by consumers, hated by the high fashion industry, Tommy Hilfiger has been one of the staple brands in men's designer wear since the company’s controversial beginnings.

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