Tommy Hilfiger is a quintessential American designer. Not only does his palette revolve around red, white and blue, his rise to the top of the fashion world is nothing if not American.
Hilfiger began his career in 1969, while still in high school, with $150 and 20 pairs of bell-bottom jeans, which he sold out of his Volkswagen. His aim is and always has been to work with a product “for the people,” and he opened a store appropriately named “The People’s Place” in upstate New York when he was only a few years out of high school.
He had established a chain of ten specialty stores in upstate New York by the age of 26. During the 1970s, he tried his hand at designing and for a period worked for Jordache before launching his own label in 1985. Hilfiger’s first ad campaign, prompted a flurry of interest, and afterwards he was proclaimed as one of the “Four Great American Designers for Men,” along with Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.
Until the early ’90s, Hilfiger’s customer was predominantly middle-class, middle-aged white males. However, after rapper Snoop Doggy Dog appeared wearing a Tommy Hilfiger shirt on Saturday Night Live in 1994 his sales rocketed overnight. He quickly began to design baggier, more casual clothes to meet the new demand. Today, the still-growing Hilfiger empire includes both a men’s and womens-wear lines, shoes, accessories and fragrances.