By  on June 15, 2007

NEW YORK — A search is under way for a creative director of Tommy Hilfiger Corp.

Founder Tommy Hilfiger told WWD that the firm is interviewing candidates for the job and confirmed that designer Miguel Adrover had been interviewed. However, Hilfiger said it was "very early in the process" and that Adrover is "one of many candidates."

"We need someone to be very engaged in the product on a day-to-day basis," Hilfiger said. The creative director will become "the eyes and ears" of the Amsterdam-based firm and travel frequently.

"We need someone who understands our sensibility and can take [the business] to the next level," he said.

Hilfiger said the creative director will oversee the company's design team, and report to Fred Gehring, chief executive officer; Hilfiger, and Michael Arts, executive vice president, global brand management. He estimated the search could take several months.

In other developments, Hilfiger said the company just signed a lease for a new Tommy Hilfiger store on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village that is expected to open in late fall.

Hilfiger denied speculation that owner Apax Partners is looking to sell off Hilfiger's Karl Lagerfeld division. He explained that, when two Apax funds acquired Hilfiger for $1.6 billion in May 2006, executives studied options for growing the Lagerfeld business. Since then, the company has developed the K by Karl Lagerfeld line, a casual sportswear and jeans collection out of Europe that "has done extremely well," he said. The division has a separate team.

"We own the whole [Lagerfeld] brand,'' Hilfiger said. "We wanted to take a step back and base it out of Europe and not become desperately aggressive, but to grow it naturally….We believe the line has tremendous potential."

Meanwhile, Hilfiger's women's wholesale business in the U.S. appears to be picking up after many disappointing seasons. "Women's has become the growth vehicle," he said. "The bookings for Tommy women's have surprised us. They're up for the first time in many seasons. Our business in Federated [now known as Macy's Inc.] is up after several years of flat to down business."Hilfiger acknowledged the U.S. operation lost its focus and was riding on the success of its European business. Outside the U.S., Hilfiger's wholesale business accounts for more than $1 billion, he said, noting that Hilfiger's freestanding U.S. stores are primarily carrying the European Hilfiger product, which is more sophisticated, upscale and carries higher price points.

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