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Tommy Hilfiger talks

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Rock’n’roll and fashion have always been intertwined. No one understands this better than fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, who’s worked with such disparate musical luminaries as the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Destiny’s Child and Q-Tip down the years.

As if to cement this mutually beneficial relationship, the naturally restless Hilfiger has devised a new fragrance - LOUD - that is aimed directly at young music fans. Aptly named, LOUD is bold, direct, hip and comes in a version for him and her - as models Josh Beech and Daisy Lowe demonstrate in the advertising campaign.

Moreover, Hilfiger has also drafted in UK duo The Ting Tings to promote the fragrance and, in turn, band members Katie White and Jules DeMartino have written the song We’re Not The Same for use in the ads.

We caught up with Hilfiger in the stylish city of Berlin, itself no stranger to rock’n’roll folklore, to talk about LOUD.

Your new fragrance is closely linked to music and the spirit of rock’n’roll. You’ve worked with everyone from Britney Spears to the Rolling Stones…

Britney Spears was just a teenager when we started working with her, just as Baby One More Time went to number one. My brother then brought me a group of three beautiful African American girls to perform on stage during a fashion show. That was Destiny’s Child and from there we forged a relationship with Beyoncé, she became the face of True Star fragrance.

Over the years we have collaborated with Lenny Kravitz, we’ve sponsored The Stones world tour and made clothes for Mick Jagger and the Stones. We’ve had David Bowie in our advertising, Sheryl Crow, Usher, Mark Ronson, Gwen Stefani, The Fugees, Q-Tip was in an ad – we’ve had all different types of musicians over the years and have connected them to our brand so we’ve always been inspired by music.

So LOUD is putting all that know-how and passion into a fragrance?

This is a scent connected to fashion and music and it’s authentic because the collaborators are all music-orientated young people. The Ting Tings were part of that whole development. We were looking for a band, we looked at Kings of Leon, Vampire Weekend; we looked at a number of different bands. We were playing The Ting Tings and I said, “Stop right there, this is it, this is who we need”. Because they were very modern and at the same time I loved the way they dressed. There was something very fashionista about them but not pretentious. I did a book in 1998 called Rock Style: How Fashion Moves To Music, did you see it?

I did.

I believe that every successful rock star has had a major influence on fashion; therefore I wanted to create our own footprint in music and fashion through getting behind a band like The Ting Tings. Launching a product with them says something to the consumer. It has authenticity.

You said in your conference earlier this morning that if you hadn’t gone into fashion, you’d have gone into music…

…Had I been able to play. There’s a catch with that!

We’ve referenced many genres but if there were one style of music for you…

…Oh, for me? It’s always classic rock. Always The Stones, The Who, (Jimi) Hendrix, The Beatles.

In terms of menswear is there anything that can’t be improved on? One staple item that needs no tweaking.

Everything always needs tweaking, even jeans: the fit changes, the wash, the detail. If there’s one thing that really never needs changing is a white T-shirt. Maybe underwear will need tweaking, a bit longer or shorter, but a white T-shirt you can’t do much to it.

This year marks 25 years in the business. What has been the biggest high and biggest low in those 25 years?

Biggest high, 25 years.

So we’re at it now?

Yeah. My biggest low was actually more than 25 years ago when I went bankrupt. When I was starting out at 18 years old I really didn’t know much about business, and by the time I was 24 or 25 I went bankrupt. But it taught me a big lesson in paying attention to business going forward. So I thought ‘Okay, this is my college education’ and I taught myself how to really focus on the business aspect as well as the creative, because you need both.

Do you think you’ve had to relearn some of this stuff and think laterally about targeting the younger market with LOUD?

Always. You’re always learning and thinking, and thinking and learning.

How did you fall into fashion?

I didn’t feel I was smart enough to go to college and become a lawyer or a doctor or an accountant. I really liked fashion and I really liked music so I thought that if I have my own fashion brand I could grow that. Sell jeans, sell clothes; it was a seed of an idea and it worked.

We’re pleased to see it.

I’m very grateful and happy I’m here after 25 years and hope I have another 25 to go.

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