Tommy Hilfiger backs up BLM statement with US$15m plan to diversify the fashion industry

Designer Tommy Hilfiger with American actor, singer and brand collaborator Zendaya at a fashion show in 2018.

Global fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger has unveiled a comprehensive plan to address racial inequality within its own organisation and the fashion industry more broadly.

On Monday, the PVH-owned brand announced the launch of the People’s Place Program, a new initiative that aims to increase representation of minority communities in fashion in three ways: partnerships, career support and industry leadership.

Going forward, Tommy Hilfiger has said it will focus on “purpose-led collaborations” and partnerships with organisations and creative peers working to advance the representation of Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) in the fashion industry.

It has also committed to providing to information, physical materials, specialist advice, industry introductions and other actions to increase access to fashion and creative career opportunities for minority communities.

And it will support independent, industry-wide analyses of diversity, equity and inclusion and develop and share a concrete action plan to create long-term change.

The People’s Place Program will be funded with US$5 million annually for the next three years as an initial minimum commitment.

The name is based on designer Tommy Hilfiger’s first store, the People’s Place, which opened in 1969 and was meant to be a space for people from all walks of life to come together to enjoy art, music, fashion and pop culture.

Black Lives Matter: Actions speak louder than words

The initiative follows a statement made by the brand’s namesake founder in response to the death of George Floyd in police custody in the US in May.

“What is happening to Black communities in the US and around the world has no place in our society,” Hilfiger said. “The fact that it has continued to exist in our industry – overtly and systemically – is unacceptable.”

“We are far behind where we should be in achieving diverse representation. It shouldn’t have taken us this long to acknowledge that, but we are determined and committed to changing it going forward,” he added.

Many brands and businesses issued similar statements condemning racism as Black Lives Matter protests gained traction around the world throughout June. Many of those statements, however, were quickly criticised as virtue signalling, or cynical attempts to benefit from consumers’ desire to support the movement.

But according to Tommy Hilfiger, the People’s Place Program is not just about good PR, as demonstrated by the governance structure the brand is building to oversee the program and ensure its success.

This includes appointing senior leadership to direct the program
and accelerate its growth internally and externally, and conducting regular reporting on its progress and impact to maintain transparency.

It also helps that the brand has a long history of supporting diversity.

Tommy Hilfiger claims to be the first fashion brand to collaborate with hip-hop artists in the 1990s, and in recent years, the brand launched an adaptive range, catering to people with special needs.

Martijn Hagman, chief executive of Tommy Hilfiger’s global business and PVH Europe, said the company acknowledges that it hasn’t done enough, but it is determined to do better.

“We are taking immediate action to ensure that BIPOC communities in the fashion industry feel represented, heard and equally welcome to their seat
at the table,” he said in a statement.

“The People’s Place journey starts now with a dedicated internal governance structure that will drive and report regularly on the long-term objectives of the platform. This is a firm commitment and first step in a long journey for what the People’s Place Program can achieve.”

Through its foundation, PVH has donated US$100,000 to The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, which supports racial justice through
advocacy, impact litigation and education, and The National Urban League, a historic civil rights organisation dedicated to economic empowerment, equality and social justice.

During the month of June, it also matched 100 per cent of charitable donations made by the company’s associates globally to organisations supporting racial justice.

PVH’s brand portfolio includes Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Izod, Van Heusen, Arrow, Warner’s, Olga and Geoffrey Beene. It employs more than 40,000 associates in over 40 countries and has US$9.9 billion in annual revenues.

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