By the time Taylor Swift was bobbing to Rihanna and Calvin Harris, iPhone pointed at the runway, Tommy Hilfiger’s job was done. Fashion be damned. Fourteen seconds of video of Gigi Hadid, the ruling supermodel of Ms Swift’s squad and an ambassador for the Tommy brand, and suddenly Mr Hilfiger was trending.
It was a moment. Never mind that the clothes were a recycling of Mr Hilfiger’s greatest hits — nautical motifs, oversized cable knits and a douse of the streetwear that the brand later retired in favour of exaggerated prep. Mr Hilfiger et al are if nothing less than masters of the production. For autumn winter 2016 that meant an elaborate showing on Pier 16 in New York’s South Street Seaport, bedecked with dozens of food and gaming booths, a temporary tattoo parlour, Gigi’s boxing club, Tilt-a-Whirl and Ferris wheel.
The MO for the fantastical set up was clear: sell more Tommy logo-emblazoned apparel, in all of its forms. Tommy, like a handful of other brands, is experimenting with see now, buy now. Like the look on Ms Hadid? With a click of a button it can be yours on the web. It is a test that PVH, Tommy’s parent company, is closely scrutinising. The company’s chief executive flagged it as an initiative worth watching on a call with Wall Street analysts less than two weeks ago.
They will not be the only ones paying attention. Tommy and stablemate Calvin Klein have been among the few brands to shrug off languid sales in the US, buoyed by results abroad and the pair’s healthy and growing wholesale business. Investors, after all, are not only reading the tea leaves from policymakers at the Federal Reserve. Will the latest Tommy venture and the Tommy by Gigi Hadid capsule collection (understandably titled TommyXGigi) offer a blueprint for US retailers struggling with heavy handed discounts and sapped consumer attention spans?
Perhaps, but it would do with better clothes. Beyond a few standouts, particularly when the house dipped into the iconography and overt logos that made it a hit with consumers in the 1990s, it was somewhat forgettable. The beige roll neck sweaters, frayed denim skirts, faux fur bombers and wool military coats have passed on this catwalk before.
Mr Hilfiger succeeded when he harked back to the high street, rap influenced looks from 20 years ago: an oversized fleece flag hoodie in the house’s iconic navy with a giant red and white box on the chest; a scuba dress made of bonded velour jersey with the same logo; and Mars red coloured flared track pants shown with a cropped track jacket in the same fabric and peekaboo Tommy boxers.
It was classic Hilfiger, reconstructed with a Vetements-like edge. Hopefully it is something that Ms Hadid can popularise with the Snapchat and Instagram sets. The 4.6m views Ms Swift’s video has already attracted show that it’s possible.