NEW YORK — Less than six months after launching her luxury handbag line, Dee Hilfiger is in expansion mode.
Today, Hilfiger will unveil her second collection under the Dee Ocleppo label. The styles follow a series of moves for the brand, including a new Web site, a permanent showroom and expansion of the internal team. “You get to a certain point where you figure that you either grow or you stop,” said Hilfiger. “When we started, it was really bare bones, and it just got to the point where Tommy and I sat down and said, ‘OK, do we go forward or not go forward?’ In any business, if you want to take it seriously, you’ve got to invest, you’ve got to hire great talent. We had great response and feedback, so we decided to go forward.”
Hilfiger began her growth strategy with the appointment of two key executives: Elizabeth Manice as president and partner, and Liza Olympitis as vice president and partner. Both Manice and Olympitis join the brand from Belstaff, where they served as senior vice president and director of business development, respectively. Tommy Hilfiger had been an investor in Belstaff but has since sold his stake.
“I really needed help with everything, whether it be with distribution or setting up appointments with buyers,” said Hilfiger. “They have been remarkable.” Hilfiger has also hired Nick Steele as design director. Steele, who has previously worked at Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta and Tommy Hilfiger, will also oversee product development.
The team joins Hilfiger in her now-permanent showroom and office space located on the 15th floor of Midtown’s Trump Tower. Tommy Hilfiger has offices on the 23rd floor. “He’s not far away,” said Hilfiger. “I consider him my major consultant.” Hilfiger noted that her husband had sat in on several design meetings. “I found a great silhouette in the Roma, and he said, ‘Roll it out in different colors.’ I think that was the best advice.”
Beyond her husband’s tips, Hilfiger cites the power of branding as a key lesson she’s learned since entering the luxury market. “It’s quite important for the consumer to know the designer,” she said. “They feel more comfortable if they feel like they have a relationship with the designer. It’s nice to have that personal connection with the consumer. With the Internet or Instagram, you can have that.” Deeocleppo.com will relaunch this month, introducing e-commerce. Along with e-commerce, Hilfiger plans to introduce an editorial component to the site, the “Word of Mrs. Hilfiger,” as well.
Product, of course, still sits at the forefront of Hilfiger’s strategy for the brand. Today she will hold a presentation for buyers, press and additional guests at the brand’s showroom, her first inclusion as part of New York Fashion Week. The collection itself is a colorful range, inspired by Hilfiger’s travels to the Caribbean. “It’s Mustique, Caribbean, boho-chic,” she said. Several styles from the brand’s fall collection are carried over, including the Hong Kong, a cross-body phone case, and the Roma, a totebag with interchangeable cover. New styles include the Nassau, an oversize circular tote, and the St. Tropez, a structured beach tote.
Colors range from bright pink, blue, greens and yellows to neutral black and tan, done in assorted materials including PVC, leather, lasered calf, ostrich and crocodile. Reiterating her focus on branding, Hilfiger introduced new brass hardware to the designs based on the brand’s logo, an oval-like shape encompassing both initials of the brand name. Prices for the collection range from $595 to $18,000 for the Roma bag in crocodile.
Hilfiger’s first collection made its debut in Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrods, and she aims to pick up additional stockists for spring. Hilfiger has also designed a bag to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The Hong Kong style, done in hot-pink calf hair, retails for $595 and will be available in October; $100 from every purchase will be donated to the BCRF.
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