Tommy Hilfiger (/hɪlˈfɪgɚ, -əʳ/), formerly known as Tommy Hilfiger Corporation and Tommy Hilfiger Inc., is an American premium clothing brand, manufacturing apparel, footwear, accessories, fragrances and home furnishings. The company was founded in 1985, and today is sold in department stores and over 2000 free-standing retail stores in 100 countries. In 2006, private equity firm Apax Partners acquired Tommy Hilfiger for approximately $1.6 billion, and in May 2010, PVH Corp. (NYSE: PVH) (then known as Philips van Heusen) bought the company. Daniel Grieder was appointed CEO in July 2014, while founder Tommy Hilfiger remains the company’s principal designer, leading the design teams and overseeing the entire creative process. Global sales in retail through the brand in 2013 were US $6.4 billion, and $6.7 billion in 2014.
Background and founding (1960s–1990s)
Tommy Hilfiger’s career in fashion began in 1968, when he co-founded a clothing and record store named People’s Place in upstate New York. Using $150 he’d saved from working at a petrol station as startup money, he oversaw the expansion of the company into a chain of ten stores. Despite meeting with initial success, People’s Place filed for bankruptcy in 1977. In 1979, Hilfiger moved to New York City to pursue a career as a fashion designer, working on several different labels including Jordache Jeans. In the early 1980s he met Mohan Murjani, an Indian textile magnate hoping to launch a line of men’s clothing. With Murjani’s backing in 1985, Hilfiger debuted his first signature collection, which featured modernized versions of button-down shirts, chinos, and other classic preppy styles. The casual youthful attitude of these first designs would remain a trait of the Tommy Hilfiger Corporation’s later collections. The new clothing line made its debut with a high-profile marketing campaign, which included a large billboard in Times Square by advertiser George Lois. The Tommy Hilfiger brand left Murjani International in 1989, with Silas Chou instead providing financial backing. That year Lawrence Stroll and Joel Horowitz, both former executives of Ralph Lauren, were hired as executives of the newly formed company Tommy Hilfiger, Inc., which had an initial focus on casual male sportswear.
The Tommy Hilfiger Corporation went public in 1992. After licensing Pepe Jeans USA in 1995, in 1996 Tommy Hilfiger Inc. began distributing women’s clothing as well. By the end of the next year Hilfiger had opened his first store in Beverly Hills, which was followed by a store in London in 1998. The company launched its bed and bath line in 1998.
Throughout the 1990s the company’s marketing division worked in tandem with the popular music industry, and as early as 1993 Hilfiger was an official sponsor for Pete Townshend’s Psychoderelict tour. In the early 1990s a baggier, less tailored menswear look came into fashion, and Hilfiger gave his clothes a more relaxed fit. As roomier styles with oversized logos became popular with hip-hop artists in the mid-to-late 1990s, Hilfiger’s style of clothing became both increasingly popular with the American “preppy” scene and as hip hop fashion, and when Snoop Dogg wore a Hilfiger sweatshirt during an appearance on Saturday Night Live in the 1990s, it sold out of New York City stores the next day. Moreover, Hilfiger courted the new hip hop market, and rappers like Puffy and Coolio walked during his runways shows. With collections often influenced by the fashion of music subcultures, The clothes are also marketed in connection with the music industry, and American R&B icon Aaliyah became the much-publicized spokesperson for Tommy Hilfiger Corporation in 1997. The company would later sponsor Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy” tour in 1997, Britney Spears 1999 …Baby One More Time Tour, and Lenny Kravitz’s 1999 Freedom tour.
Overseas growth and Apax Partners acquisition (2000s)
Women’s intimate apparel was introduced in 2001. After sales and net income faltered in 2001, the company’s sales in 2002 totaled $1.87 billion. Overall between 2000 and 2009, sales slipped from around $1.9 billion to $700 million. During the same time period, however, Hilfiger’s European sales steadily rose to $1.13 billion. In 2003, Hilfiger executive Fred Gehring and Hilfiger decided to further invest in the brand’s growing overseas audience by re-focusing on the brand’s original style, “classic American cool,” and designing the clothes out of New York City. Gehring also adapted the business model to suit European retail culture, pursuing partnerships with European department stores and with smaller boutiques, signing 4,500 of them in 15 countries. Hilfiger also strove to retain the designer brand exclusivity of the Hilfiger label by signing a deal to distribute the best-selling Hilfiger lines at Macy’s only.
Hilfiger has endorsed products such as True Star is a fragrance, which was released in 2004 with Beyoncé Knowles as poster girl. True Star would go on to win a FiFi Award for Best New Commercial Fragrance. By 2004, the Tommy Hilfiger Corporation company had revenues of $1.8 approximately billion and 5,400 employees. In 2006, Tommy Hilfiger sold Tommy Hilfiger Inc. for $1.6 billion, or $16.80 a share, to Apax Partners, a private investment company. After the acquisition Gehring assumed control of the American headquarters of Tommy Hilfiger as well as Europe. Gehring and Hilfiger narrowed their focus in the United States to the profitable core sportswear line, and U.S. sales began to rise in 2010.