Buro exclusive: A NYFW conversation with Tommy Hilfiger

Buro exclusive: A NYFW conversation with Tommy Hilfiger

New York Fashion Week

Text: Stacey Chia

In the midst of fashion week mayhem, Buro speaks to one of America’s great designers about his FW16 show and the runway to retail shift that is changing the face of fashion

Tell us about the inspiration behind your fall/winter 2016 collection.
The inspiration stems from my first love for anything nautical. I was also inspired by authenticity and my love for a sense of humour. I chose to look into the 1920s and 1930s. It's not Art Deco, but Art Moderne. During that time, there were a lot of buildings designed after cruise liners with railings. It was also a time where it was a big deal to be able to take one of those steamliners crossing the Atlantic from the UK into New York. People would dress up to go on the ship.

The fall/winter 2016 collection is vintage yet modern, and whimsical with a sense of humour. It's sexy and authentic. There are lots of great coats, super high-waisted full cut bell bottoms, embroidery, whimsical prints, Breton stripes, sheer dresses, a Nappa leather bathrobe, denim pea coats and short crop tops worn with vintage swimwear ideas. Isn't it fun?

What are some of the key pieces that you love?
I love the shearling coat, the high-waisted bell bottoms and the vintage swimwear. I like that they exude a sense of playfulness. I don't like taking myself too seriously.

I suppose the woman you design for wants to have fun with fashion too.
Yes! She wants to go out and wear something a bit funny and a little bit off.

The big conversation this fashion week has been about the industry shift towards a direct-to-consumer model, and you're one of the forerunners leading this change. What does this all mean for the Tommy Hilfiger consumer?
I really believe that the consumer is going to benefit because now she is able to purchase the pieces after seeing it on the runway and not have to wait six months after. For a long time, I've been thinking about this and I strongly feel now is the time to implement the change. We are confident that this is the right thing to do because we have to please the consumer. We have to make sure she is getting what she wants, when she wants it. At the same time, I don't like following the rules — I make my own rules.

We're going to be doing it differently from Burberry and Tom Ford. We will be broadcasting our show across various platforms — televised and streamed live globally. It will be a breakthrough in the digital world.

You're a great adopter of technology. Is there anything in particular you would like to do with technology that you haven't done yet?
I want to perfect click-and-buy. I think people want to be able to buy something that they've just seen someone on the street wearing.

You have a capsule collection with Gigi Hadid that will be out later this year. Can you tell us what it's like working with her?
Gigi Hadid has been modelling for me and I said to my team a year and a half ago: "She is our number one girl and that we need Gigi to become part of our family". So we signed her on with the intent of doing a Gigi collection for Tommy Hilfiger.

Designers almost never do collections with models because they aren't designers. But she has a sense of style coming from California that's cool, relaxed, chic, fun and youthful. I brought her into my design studio and told her to design whatever she wanted, and she had so many great ideas.

I think she has the potential to become her own brand. Wait — she's already her own brand. When you mention Gigi, you don't even have to mention her last name. There hasn't been that since Naomi, Linda and Cindy. Gigi is a movement and then if you add Kendall, Hailey and some of the other girls to the equation, there's this whole new world. But Gigi is our girl.

Gigi x Tommy Hilfiger

Let's talk about your cameo in Zoolander 2. The movie pokes fun at the fashion industry. Why does it seem like everyone in fashion loves that and what was your experience like?
We were doing a lot of crazy things. When I was filming, Ben Stiller was like: "OK Tommy, Will Ferrell is going to walk in the room and you are going to yell at him. Really yell at him. Tell him he doesn't know how to design down parkas. Then, Anna Wintour is going to come into the room, so make sure you bow and make sure you chant." It was so much fun.

In this day and age, fashion should not be taken so seriously. Even Karl Lagerfeld puts a lot of fun into it. I think gone are the days when those haute couture designers treated fashion as if it was so precious and special. Now things are fun and youthful, I mean look at Jeremy Scott — crazy stuff.

Apart from the big business plans, what else can we expect from you this year? 
I'm going to take people on my journey through my life in my new memoir. I finished writing it last week, but I'm going to have to go back and change the last few pages given new developments. I've been in fashion since I was 18, so I've seen a lot of things happen and met a lot of people. It's going to be about all my experiences, from visiting Michael Jackson in Neverland to working with Beyoncé.

For all coverage of New York Fashion Week fall/winter 2016, click here.