By  on July 15, 2010

Tommy Hilfiger is out to woo the twentysomething customer with a new men’s and women’s lifestyle collection that has its own retail footprint.

Meet Tommy, the brand’s effort to lure customers from American Apparel, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters.

The line will target an audience with a median age of 25 and veer away from the preppy looks that are the mainstay of Hilfiger’s collection sold exclusively at Macy’s.

Tommy aims to focus on handmade details, distinctive materials and unexpected pairings for unique looks. For example, a washed, tailored jacket could be mixed with vintage-inspired long johns and hand-painted brogues, or a men’s wear shirt coupled with a slouchy boy-fit sweatshirt and destroyed denim and cropped motorcycle boots shown with a feminine clutch.

“Tommy gives us more flexibility and freedom to do something truly conceptual,” said company founder and principal designer Tommy Hilfiger.

Tommy is “absolutely a reaction” to the ubiquity of specialty store environments, said Gary Sheinbaum, chief executive officer of Tommy Hilfiger USA. “The way we’re going to merchandise Tommy will be distinctive and different, not so formulaic. It will be more of a fun, dynamic experience. The product itself, we feel, is going to be a fresh take on the preppy traffic, done in a fresh, young, cool way. When we look around, we don’t see anyone doing anything like this.”

Knits will sell for $24 to $59, and denim, $79 to $129. Outerwear will start at $129 for men and $139 for women.

“We’re very careful,” Sheinbaum said. “We understand that, in today’s environment, you have to have a great price-value proposition.”

The Tommy Hilfiger Group will begin selling Tommy in October in three freestanding Canadian stores — two in Toronto and one in Edmonton. The collection also will be introduced that month in dedicated areas of 14 existing Tommy Hilfiger stores in Canada. In March 2009, Tommy Hilfiger merged the U.S. business and the Canadian business, which comprises 50 retail locations.

A wider rollout could follow, with international markets potentially in the offing.

“We chose to launch in Canada because we have a significant retail business there,” Sheinbaum said. “It’s exciting for the company because other areas, such as South America or Mexico, for example, could launch it. [Tommy] has unlimited potential,” Sheinbaum said.

The line will bow on tommy.com next year.

Asked if Hilfiger had addressed this target audience before, Sheinbaum said: “In the early Nineties, we were hitting a lot of college and twentysomethings, but the brand aged and the customer grew up with us, and the customer is now in his or her 30s. We can now reengage this customer.”

The Tommy store design will be a white box with a pop of color, with decorative objects and modern art installations in the windows and throughout the space. The store’s optimal size is about 4,000 to 4,500 square feet, Sheinbaum said.

Tommy is one of the brand’s first initiatives since Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. acquired the Tommy Hilfiger business for $3 billion in May. Emanuel Chirico, PVH chairman and ceo, said at the company’s annual meeting last month that Hilfiger, like the company’s purchase of Calvin Klein Inc. in 2003, should provide a solid platform for PVH’s international growth.

“We have a new merchant-led, design-driven team,” Sheinbaum said. “This is a retail approach to the business. We have a great relationship with Macy’s, but it’s about fitting in the wholesale model.”

And Tommy’s not just going after mall-based specialty store customers. “Certainly, it could be higher-level [retailers] such as Barneys New York Co-op, J. Crew and Anthropologie,” Sheinbaum said.

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