NEW YORK — Christopher Cortez will report to work Monday morning as a full-time designer at the Tommy Hilfiger Co.
Cortez is not a typical new hire. He is the winner of Hilfiger's reality CBS-TV series, "The Cut," which wrapped up its first (and final) season Wednesday night. Cortez, 26, bested 15 contestants from around the country for a one-year design contract at Hilfiger at a $250,000 salary.
"The experience was great," he said Wednesday night. "It was quite a challenge in itself. The overall experience taught me I can do anything I put my mind to, as long as I stay humble."
Raised in Bridgeport, Conn., Cortez received his bachelor's degree in graphic design from Chamberlain School of Design in Boston, and his master's in fine arts from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He is living in San Francisco and will move here. He and his best friend own a hat company called Christopher Thomas, which sells to stores in Japan, San Francisco and Texas, as well as through his Web site, wishchristopherthomas.com.
Cortez said the highlight of the experience was meeting Tommy Hilfiger.
"He is one my idols, and to work alongside him was just amazing," Cortez said. "Just off the bat, I accomplished my dream."
Throughout the 13 weeks, Cortez performed multiple tasks, some of which involved the Hilfiger label.
Cortez has been wearing Hilfiger's clothes since 1995 and has more than 100 pieces in his collection.
In the final episode Wednesday night, Cortez had to create a window display at Macy's. Hilfiger was impressed that Cortez was "the total package" and had what it took to create a lifestyle brand.
"I thought he had the taste level, the stamina, the drive, the motivation and the personality," Hilfiger said on Wednesday. "He also loves the Tommy Hilfiger brand, which is extremely important."
Although "The Cut" hasn't been picked up for a second season, Hilfiger said he's happy he did it, and it wasn't too much of a distraction. "It took longer than I thought to film, but it was fun," he said. "You can't buy exposure like that. It was a good marketing experience."Cortez will have the opportunity to design a collection under the Tommy Hilfiger label and hopes it leads to something more.
"I would love it, if it worked out," he said. "I never see myself quitting the hat company. I'm not in that for the money. We do it out of pure love. It's like a band. Sometimes the band members do a solo. This is my time to do a solo album. I'd like to see where it takes me."