LONDON — Tommy Hilfiger is hoping to hook the Internet generation with a new online television Web site, Tommy TV, which launched here Wednesday.
The site, TommyTV.com, will broadcast the Hilfiger Sessions, concerts set up in association with Sony BMG, and spotlight established artists, such as Wyclef Jean and Kelly Rowland, alongside undiscovered acts.
"I became a fashion designer because of music and music has remained at the heart of Tommy Hilfiger," the designer said. "I wanted to dress like Mick Jagger or Pete Townshend, but I grew up in Elmira [N.Y.], not Carnaby Street, and the King's Road was a ways off, so I designed and created my own [rock 'n' roll] clothes."
The Internet channel allows viewers to watch jam sessions, organized by the fashion label and Sony BMG, held in cities around the world. Jean will host a session in London in June. Parisian band One-Two played at the launch.
Hilfiger and the company's chief executive officer, Fred Gehring, said the online operation isn't merely another retail platform. "This is a marketing initiative — we're not selling music or [charging people] to download," Gehring said. "We want to engage consumers on an emotional level. Music is in our DNA, both as a brand and in Tommy as a person."
However, Tommy TV will have a link to Tommy Hilfiger's e-commerce site. "So if a consumer gets the spontaneous urge to buy a pair of jeans, it can easily be done," Gehring said, laughing.
Tommy TV also will provide a platform for unsigned artists to upload their videos onto the site's affiliated channels on the Web sites You Tube and Joost, which could potentially lead to a record contract with Sony BMG.
Hilfiger and Gehring said they expected the site's viewers to skew toward the younger end of the brand's audience, with the ages of its core visitors landing between 18 and 24.
"It's all about the consumer, and they spend most of the their time on the Internet," said Hilfiger, who added that it was an obvious choice for him to launch the channel online, rather than as a conventional television station. "The access is ultimately going to be greater being on the Internet."With a nod to the popularity of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, the site will have a section called My Tommy TV, which allows users to personalize the site and offer feedback to the brand. Eventually, Gehring said users would be able to connect with one another on the site. "This is the beginning of the road for us. We have other ideas that we'd like to see happen in the future," he added, saying that could include publishing music on a record label in association with Sony BMG.
Hilfiger said it was a priority for the company to ensure that the design and look of the Web site is "outstanding." The footage is all shot on high-definition video cameras, and the company also has employed Paper Vision technology, which gives the live footage a three-dimensional effect. "I believe being on the Internet is very important [for a fashion label], but we understood that the site had to be very special from a design standpoint," he said.
"To associate with top bands, there has to be trust, creativity and quality, and all three are in the Tommy TV project," said Maarten Steinkamp, chief executive of Sony BMG. "For us, it's a marketing and communication tool."
In a separate development, Gehring said Apax Partners has not yet decided when to revive an initial public offering for Tommy Hilfiger. "[There are] no plans — it's back to business," he said.
An IPO had been planned for January, but Apax postponed the listing because of turbulent conditions in the financial markets. After British wire reports Wednesday said that Apax will look at listing Tommy Hilfiger in late 2009, a spokeswoman for the brand reiterated that no date had been decided.
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