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Iconic Designers | Tommy Hilfiger

One of the great American designers of a generation, renowned for his iconic red, white and blue logo, and famed for his larger than life runway shows, Tommy Hilfiger is a household name with fashion, home and fragrance lines to his name.
Follow our timeline to explore the king of casual’s reign over 35 years, from ambitious teen selling bell-bottomed jeans from the trunk of his car to owner of a fashion empire that redefined the concept of cool all-American style.

All images by Tommy Hilfiger
23 Dec 2019


1951 – Tommy Hilfiger is born on March 24th in Elmira, New York. 


1968 - Aged 17, Hilfiger and some friends chip in $150 each to buy 20 pairs of bell-bottomed jeans and start selling them to friends out of the trunk of his car. This enterprise soon evolves into a standalone lifestyle store, People’s Place, situated in Elmira selling hippie-inspired clothing, incense and candles. 

1969 - Stores start opening up across upstate New York college campuses, sales are booming, and People’s Place quickly gains momentum. Musicians passing through New York for gigs stop by for the unique pieces that the store sources from around the world.

The success of People’s Place leads Hilfiger to move to central NYC where he shares the dancefloor with the likes of Andy Warhol and Diana Ross on the Studio 54 scene. He also heads to London and rubs shoulders with music icons Freddie Mercury and The Rolling Stones.  


1979 – With a fresh perspective and new-found drive, Tommy moves to Manhattan with ambitions to reclaim his industry success.  


1985 – Tommy Hilfiger is launched. With the backing of businessman Mohan Murjani, who offers the funds and factory to support the designer’s ambitious, Hilfiger introduces his first signature collection, modernising classic preppy styles such as button-down shirts and classic chinos.

1985 - Tommy launches his label to the masses with a billboard advert in Times Square to announce the menswear collection hitting the shelves. The campaign boldly states that Hilfiger is one of the four great American designers…you just don’t know it yet.

Whilst Hilfiger’s designs have a lot in common with the likes of Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, he wants to push the updated American look to new heights with a more youthful direction and brand image. It would take a while for his designs to catch the eye of buyers and customers alike, in a world where there was still an edge of formality to fashion.

1988 – His persistence pays off with the growth of a casual fashion scene, with Tommy Hilfiger clothing sales peaking at $25 million. 


1995 – By the mid-1990s, sales are at an incredible $500million and by the end of the decade, will reach $1 billion. The iconic Tommy logo, instantly recognisable for its red, white and blue block-coloured flag, is worn prominently in the hip-hops scene, making its mark on the red carpet and at awards shows throughout the decade.

1995 – The same year, Tommy is recognised by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which awards him with the title of Best Menswear Designer of the Year.

1996 – Having taken menswear by storm, Hilfiger shows his first women’s collection. The New York Times reviews the line with enthusiasm, exclaiming that other designers of all-American sportswear should “watch their backs”. Hilfiger’s collections continue to evolve, incorporating bright palettes, large-scale logos and over-sized forms that are synonymous with the hip-hop style influence of the era.

1998 – Tommy Hilfiger branches out across the pond and opens his first London store.

1999 – Popularity within the music scene continues to help promote the Tommy Hilfiger identity, lending his name to tour sponsorships for Britney Spears and The Rolling Stones, and collaborating on future fragrance and fashion campaigns with Beyoncé and David Bowie.


2002 – Tommy Hilfiger wins International Designer of the Year at the GQ Awards.

2004 – True Star fragrance launches with pop superstar Beyoncé as the face of the brand campaign.

2006 - Businessmen Daniel Grieder and Fred Gehring buy the company with the help of Apax Partners for $1.6billion. Stripping back stock and re-inventing the rules of retail, the duo turns its attention to the then unsaturated European market, taking the brand from a revenue of £0 in 1997 to just shy of £1billion in 2008.

2007 - Tommy Hilfiger teams up with Quincy Jones, Russell Simmons and many others to produce the Dream Concert with all funds raised going towards the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation.

2008 – The Tommy Hilfiger denim collection launches, inspired by the New York rock ‘n’ roll scene of the ‘70s, working with Marky Ramone of The Ramones.

2009 – The label’s global flagship store opens in world-renowned shopping destination Fifth Avenue, NYC.  


2010s – Tapping into the rise in popularity for fashion-forward clothing for children, Tommy Hilfiger launches a collection that takes the classic spirit of the Hilfiger brand, shrunk down for girls and boys.

2010 – Fashion lifestyle company PVH Group adds Tommy Hilfiger to its portfolio to help grow and develop the brand, which now has men’s, women’s and children’s fashion, home and fragrance lines within its empire.

2015 – Noticing a gap in the market for inclusive fashion, Hilfiger partners with non-profit organisation Runway of Dreams to create Tommy Adaptive: a clothing collection for children and adults with disabilities and additional needs. The line takes essential fashion pieces, which look the same as the seasonal collection, thoughtfully modified to be easier to put on: adjustable hems, one-handed zippers, magnetic buttons and many more clever design features.

2015 - Understanding the importance of celebrity endorsements, Tommy Hilfiger works with exciting and prominent celebrities as brand ambassadors, most famously model Gigi Hadid for four seasons. 2016 – Tommy Hilfiger publishes ‘American Dreamer’: a memoir of his life and career.

2016 - Gigi Hadid becomes the face of four Tommy Hilfiger capsule collections, collaborating with the American designer to create distinctive fashion themes including motor sport, rock ‘n’ roll, fairground and Californian influences. It is at the first Tommy x Gigi runway show where the designer launches the ‘See-Now-Buy-Now’ concept, allowing customers to shop the collection during the performance in New York.

2018 – Hilfiger signs a multi-year contract to design the uniform for the Mercedes Benz German F1 team. 2018 also marks the start of an ongoing partnership with Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton for Tommy Hilfiger menswear SS’18. 2018 – High profile models Winnie Harlow and Hailey Bieber are made brand ambassadors for the Tommy Hilfiger AW’18 womenswear collection.

2019 – Singer, actress and model Zendaya takes the baton from Gigi, co-designing the SS’19 capsule collection, reflective of the Tommy Hilfiger Americana aesthetic and "celebrating self-expression, individuality and empowerment" for the next instalment of TommyNow. 2019 - Tommy Sport is launched: the first sportswear line for the brand with its debut collection launching for SS’19.

2020 – Portuguese footballer Pedro Monteiro is set to be the next brand ambassador for the Tommy Hilfiger SS’20 menswear collection. 

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