Inside Tommy Hilfiger’s winning strategy to democratise fashion

Diversity and inclusion are top of mind for legendary American designer Tommy Hilfiger, who is currently visiting Australia as the brand expands its store network on our shores.

From his long history of collaborating with hip-hop artists and people of colour to catering to a wide size range and his Adaptive range aimed at people with special needs, Hilfiger has always aimed to democratise fashion. 

In a press conference in Sydney today, Hilfiger said the Adaptive range was inspired by his 24-year-old daughter with autism who struggles to tie her shoelaces and use zippers. He even designed a pair of shoes for her that look like sneakers with laces, but are actually slip-ons. The Adaptive collection launched in 2016 and features magnetic buttons and velcro to help people with special needs to dress with style and ease.

“It’s an enormous market and what we found is one in every eight people has a disability. I have autistic children so I think it enlightened me and opened my eyes to how difficult it has been for these children to dress themselves, blend in with everyone else and how desperately they’ve always wanted to look like their siblings schoolmates or other people,” Hilfiger explained.

Hilfiger also discussed his evolution into the brand’s see-now-buy-now fashion shows called Tommynow, which offer a broader range of consumers access to the previously exclusive events. For years, brands would put on fashion shows and six months later, the clothes would finally drop in stores, but modern consumers want instant gratification, he said. Now, after a show, Tommy runway looks are immediately available via shoppable channels in more than 70 countries, including the website, social media and wholesale partners.

“Fashion shows aren’t enough, they can be boring, watching models walking up and down the runway and everyone does it. I wanted to do something disruptive and experiential,” he said. 

The latest Tommynow event took place in Paris, where Hilfiger debuted his collaboration with singer and actress Zendaya. The show was inspired by the Battle of Versailles and featured iconic black supermodels Beverley Johnson, Pat Cleveland and Veronica Webb.

“We really changed the fashion business by doing [Tommynow] and I also wanted to open my shows to the public. They were so exclusive and closed. A lot of fashion people are snobby – they don’t want normal people coming to the shows. They think they’re above all that. I wanted to break that all down and [make it] accessible for every body.”

Expansion into Australia

Tommy Hilfiger has been opening more standalone bricks-and-mortar stores in Australia recently, from Maroochydore and Indooroopilly to Melbourne Emporium. The brand also launched an Australian e-commerce site and reportedly has been experiencing double-digit growth on our shores.

“We’re really energising our brand, we’re expanding our brand worldwide but here in Australia, we have a very large and growing fan base, so we’re bringing all the latest product here – a lot of new Tommy Jeans styles, a lot of new accessories footwear, all the new fashion from collaborations with Lewis Hamilton and Zendaya,” Hilfiger said.

“We’re really energising the brand in terms of opening new stores and really bringing the people in Australia the same exact energy and product that we have in Europe, the US and other parts of the world.”

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