By  on October 14, 2011

PHILADELPHIA — On the heels of winning Philadelphia University’s 2011 Spirit of Design Award earlier this year, Tommy Hilfiger returned the love by heading here Oct. 11 for some one-on-one time with the school’s fashion department.

Joining Hilfiger was Allen Sirkin, president and chief operating officer of PVH Corp., the parent company of Tommy Hilfiger, and a 1964 graduate of Philadelphia University.

The first leg of Hilfiger’s visit was touring senior fashion design classrooms. He strolled through the work spaces, stopping to carefully inspect garments as students eagerly offered up descriptions of their work. At one dress form, he critiqued a half-finished futuristic gown, telling the student, “Looks like a space god from the Sixties. Very nice.” Checking out another student’s deconstructed jersey dress, he encouragingly told her, “I can tell a lot of work went into this. It’s amazing, congrats.” When another showed him sketches, he laughed good-naturedly and said, “Looks like your model needs a good meal.”

After the tour, Hilfiger took to the stage and addressed more than 1,000 students and faculty in an informal question-and-answer session, conducted by senior Casey Lamke, president of the student group Fashion Industries Association. Hilfiger was pressed by a few students for details about his journey to becoming a megabrand, but a majority of the questions pertained to how up-and-coming designers can make it in the industry.

“There’s a balance between business and design, between what is commercial and what is art. And the most successful designers in the fashion world understand how to balance both,” was his resounding sentiment.

Hilfiger explained that the key to his own success was that his “products are aspirational, inspirational, accessible, wearable, and now more than ever, affordable,” but he urged them all to forge their own individual paths. “At some point in time, you’re going to have to decide where you’re going to end up in the business, which lane you’re going to take,” he said. “The amount of lanes in this business is endless, and you need to pick yours.”

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