After taking place purely online last year,
When you walk through the streets of New York, the word “Tommy” is inescapable.
Since then, the Tommy takeover has accelerated, full speed ahead. Perhaps it’s Hilfiger’s ability to involve the hottest celebrities – often musicians – of the moment with his brand that has kept it relevant. Snoop Dogg famously wore a Tommy Hilfiger rugby top on Saturday Night Live in 1994 that was re-released earlier this year as part of the
People’s Place ad-campaign material, 1975, courtesy of Tommy Hilfiger Archives
It makes sense, then, that in a time when a whole generation has intimate access to their favourite celebrities at their fingertips, Hilfiger would collaborate on whole collections with some of the most adored women and men in the world right now. In 2016, Hilfiger tapped the American sweetheart
The partnership with Zendaya has undoubtedly brought a new sense of swag and sass to the label. When I meet her and Hilfiger at the brand’s HQ, they’re ready for business. Upstairs, above the fittings, they sit together, legs crossed, overseeing the whole operation. The room is buzzing with their high-powered energy. Hilfiger is dressed in a classic Tommy look: red trousers, navy blue blazer and white shirt. Zendaya is sleek in a black, knee-length, double-breasted leather jacket and a soft, buttoned-up and belted shirtdress; later, she towers over everyone in leather boots. Slick. “I’ve grown up seeing the logo my whole life,” she says when we talk about the Tommy Hilfiger domination of the city. “[The collaboration] was right for me because the brand has always been a staple in pop culture. Tommy told me, ‘I want you to be able to be as involved as you want. If you want to pick everything down to the logos and the wrapping paper and whatever, then you’re completely welcome to do whatever you want and we’re going to create whatever vision you have. And that’s what he’s done, and I’ve been able to be creative and explore what it means to make clothes. It’s been really special.”
Hilfiger with Larry Stemerman and a friend c1974, courtesy of Tommy Hilfiger Archives
This second collection is an ode to the 1970s and the people who performed at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, where the show is taking place – a sweet, full-circle moment for Hilfiger. “Zendaya brought a lot of photographs and inspiration boards to me,” he says. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was a little nervous, but when I saw the inspiration, I was like, ‘Thank God, oh my God!’ If there was a target on the wall, it was like, ‘Bull’s- eye.’ I was getting chills. My era, the ’70s that I understand so well and love so much. And we haven’t done it in an entirety before. There have been pieces but we’ve never done an entire collection that is ’70s.” It’s an era that Zendaya and her creative partner Law Roach are “heavily inspired by”, often for hair and make-up ideas. “When we were given the opportunity to actually make our own clothes, it just felt like that was the right place to go,” says Zendaya. “Most of what I do is inspired by then anyway. I don’t know why, I’m just drawn to it.”
The collaboration is happening in what seems to be a whirlwind year for Zendaya, who has continued her role as the new-generation MJ in Marvel’s Spider-Man saga and, most notably, is the star of the brilliant Drake-executive produced HBO series
Kate Moss and Treach at the Tommy Hilfiger SS97 show, courtesy of Getty
Being a young woman in America right now sees fashion fit into Zendaya’s world as a source of empowerment and escape. “Fashion has been a tool that I’ve used to find my own voice and self-confidence,” she says. “I’ve been able to become more fearless, figure out who I am and what I like and what I don’t like. I think clothes are more than just clothes. They’re memories, moments and very much a part of you and who you are. Sometimes I go on red carpets and I create these different characters. It’s empowering because I get to explore these different facets of who I am already. All these different versions of myself exist within myself anyway, I just get to find out who they are. So, to me, it is a form of acting, like any other art form that I love. It allows me to escape into something but also empowers me to be more creative and care less about what other people think.”
Her involvement in each collection – Zendaya calls it “overbearing”, Hilfiger calls it “perfectionism” and “professionalism” – has brought a new freshness to the label. It is, as he describes it, a “real, true-blood collaboration that has enhanced my brand”. It feels free and new-generation cool, cementing another epic moment in Hilfiger’s history. “I’ve learnt from Tommy [how] he has [built] this incredible, massive brand,” says Zendaya. “It has outlived so many others because of his ability to stay relevant. He does it by always uplifting and encouraging young voices that are coming up and giving them a space to be creative, to have a voice, and he gives them the resources they need to be creative. So when you’re able to do that and you don’t have an ego, that’s how you’re able to continue to grow and be successful. That’s what I want. I want to always be able to have the capacity to reach and learn at the same time.”
Hilfiger with Law Roach and Zendaya at the AW19 show, courtesy of Getty
It is the natural evolution of the brand, from sponsoring tours, to dressing musicians to giving over complete creative control of collections and touring the world. “The best part has been having someone’s ideas come into our kitchen and allowing the brand to go to yet another level,” says Hilfiger, reflecting on the collaborations. “Some brands get stuck doing what they do and sometimes they can be myopic. They don’t look out, and if they do, they bring ideas back they’re comfortable with. I wanted to say, ‘OK, bring new ideas and help us move the needle.’ It worked. It’s working in such a great way. Beyond what I expected – way beyond.” This is Tommy, now.
Cover image for 10+ Issue 3 by Anna Stokland. The Fashion Awards take place Monday, November 29 at the Royal Albert Hall.