By  on July 30, 2007

MILAN — Thierry Henry, a soccer icon, is set to become a fashion favorite as well through a new limited-edition collection inspired by his style and designed by Tommy Hilfiger.

The Thierry Henry capsule collection, which will break in more than 40 Tommy Hilfiger flagships worldwide in September, is a sleek and distilled expression of the French athlete’s aesthetic, and marks a decisively urbane look for Hilfiger.

“I took his ideas and tastes and blended them into a line that is very sophisticated and cool,” Hilfiger told DNR in a phone interview last week. “The collection is just really right for the European market.”

Indeed. In Europe the Tommy Hilfiger brand has been capitalizing on its premium position, posting robust sales growth over the past two years. It opened more than 50 freestanding stores in Europe in 2006.

The Thierry Henry collection is a further move toward the top tier of fashion.

One of the soccer world’s most successful strikers, Henry played for eight years with the U.K.’s Arsenal Football Club before signing with Barcelona earlier this summer.

And while Americans may not know his name, he’s revered throughout the soccer world for his speed and athleticism.

“He’s a superstar, better looking than most models and just a real gentleman,” Hilfiger said, adding that it was a convenient coincidence both men shared the same initials.

Yet it wasn’t only Henry’s celebrity status, matinee-idol looks and perfectly lean physique that convinced Hilfiger to sign him on as brand ambassador late last year.

His charity, The One 4 All Foundation—which promotes and supports education projects against racism—was an equal lure. All profits from the collection will go toward the Foundation’s initiatives.

“We were looking for an icon to represent our brand and Thierry was a great partner,” Hilfiger said. “I just loved the idea he was so philanthropic. He wants to help his community and also be involved in fashion, but not in the way a lot of other [non-designers] have done it.”

Henry gladly remained the muse and left the designing to Hilfiger.

And while Hilfiger has crafted concert wardrobes for many a rock star, as well as designed on-field uniforms for different teams, including the Hilfiger Sailing team and the U.S. Olympic Freestyle Ski team, the Thierry Henry collection is the first fully articulated collaboration with an international personality

“It’s always beneficial to a designer to get input from consumers, especially when that consumer has such great style,” Hilfiger said. “It ultimately helps build a better product.”

Hilfiger said the two met twice, once in Amsterdam, where Tommy Hilfiger’s corporate headquarters are now located, and once in London, to discuss the collection.

The result of those brainstorming sessions is a streamlined, modern collection that features clothing, sportswear, footwear and underwear.

Unlike other soccer players that favor jeans and T’s, Henry’s approach to dressing leans toward the chic and tailored. The nearly 40-piece collection, anchored in a palette of blacks, grays and chocolate, echoes that sensibility.
Suits are trim and made from fine wool. Knitwear is entirely cashmere and dress shirts feature micro-checks and jacquard. There’s also an element of the sportif, best exemplified in a cotton jersey trench.

The collection comes with a special label that features the number 14—Henry’s number at Arsenal. Meanwhile, Arsenal’s color, red, is delicately sprinkled throughout the collection, whether as the undercollar lining of a checked wool coat or as a trim on pockets.

Retail prices range from 30 euros, or $41, for a pair of boxer shorts to around 620 euros, or $850, for a glen plaid, two-button, shawl-collar suit. Shirts average 100 euros, or $137.

“A pro athlete that is very successful can wear whatever he wants, from any designer, or even have it tailor made for him,” Hilfiger said. “This collection is exactly what Thierry would wear. It’s created with him in mind and for him.”

The collection will break exclusively in Hilfiger flagships worldwide, including its recently opened shops on Regent Street in London and on Rue Saint-Honore in Paris, where events are also planned to fête the launch. In the U.S. it will be sold through the Tommy Hilfiger Soho store. Its only wholesale account will be Colette in Paris starting in October.

A special ad campaign, lensed by Nathaniel Goldberg and featuring Henry, will break in European men’s and lifestyle titles, such as GQ, Esquire and Men’s Health, as well in sport titles like France’s L’Equipe, next month. In the U.S. the campaign will run in Details and The New York Times.

“It was such a pleasure to work with a superstar who is so humble,” Hilfiger said. “To me that was as meaningful or more meaningful than anything else.”

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