Tommy Hilfiger, New York

VMSD talks shop with Tommy Hilfiger on his new Fifth Avenue flagship, the evolution of New York retail and his favorite places to spend money.
Posted November 17, 2009
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Twenty years after opening his first specialty shop in New York, Tommy Hilfiger returns to the city where it all started. This time, he’s brought the brand’s entire fashion collection to a four-story global flagship on Fifth Avenue. In this exclusive Q&A with Tommy Hilfiger himself, VMSD asks the renowned designer about his new digs and why the timing is right for opening on one of the most prestigious shopping avenues in the world.

VMSD: You’ve said this store is about projecting the Tommy Hilfiger lifestyle. In 10 words or less, define your brand.

Tommy Hilfiger: A fun take on Americana, classic yet sophisticated.

So how do a modern sculptural white staircase, oil-rubbed bronze metal fixtures, walnut paneling and 1960s Venini chandeliers come together to represent the Tommy Hilfiger brand?

The store reflects the brand’s modern-meets-traditional design philosophy – we restored the façade to McKim, Mead and White’s original 1970s Indiana limestone vision, then decorated the store with found pieces, such as a Chesterfield sofa and LED chandeliers.

What’s your favorite design element at the Fifth Avenue flagship?

Besides the modern staircase that overlooks Fifth Avenue, one of my favorite features is the 50-foot art wall that’s currently featuring a Tommy Hilfiger flag created entirely out of vintage items.

What was the most challenging part of transforming this former Fortunoff space?

The ceilings were rather low so we expanded the height, creating a more majestic yet still intimate space.

There’s a range of visual elements on display throughout the store, including a motorcycle and a collection of ’80s kitsch. What’s your philosophy on visual merchandising?

We’ve always focused on creating a fun, welcoming atmosphere with a few surprises tucked in. The Fifth Avenue store in particular takes the idea of having cool, unexpected elements to another level with everything from vintage Vogue magazine covers to custom sequined mannequins in the front windows.

How do you choose visual elements for the store?

Our creative team worked with design and architecture firm Callison to design a space that incorporates modern with traditional, vintage with new, and art elements such as a Paul Vallinski record vinyl display. Found items came from all over the world, discovered in antique shops or the Brimfield Antique Market (in Brimfield, Mass.).

How has retail in New York changed since you opened your first store here?

It’s become increasingly diverse and more globally minded, which has been very inspiring.

You’ve said, “Timing is key, especially in fashion.” Why is the timing right for Tommy Hilfiger to be on Fifth Avenue?

Our brand positioning offers affordable yet aspirational clothing, which allows us to be flexible and accommodating to our customers.

Sidebar: The Man Behind the Brand

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?                                 Read the paper.
Last thing you do before you go to bed?
Say goodnight to my kids.
BlackBerry or iPhone?
Favorite app (besides yours)?
The New York Times.
Name one piece of clothing you can’t live without.
In addition to your new Fifth Avenue flagship, what stores are your guilty pleasures?
Unis in the Lower East Side and Thom Browne.
If you could spend 15 minutes talking to anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
John F. Kennedy – I think he was an interesting man who was president at a very fascinating time.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My family.