Elmira College's Hamilton Hall.

Tommy Hilfiger and his siblings Andy and Betsy have partnered with Elmira College to establish the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Business School, which will combine business education with real-world fashion industry experience. It will be part of its bachelor’s degree in business administration.

The Hilfiger siblings grew up in Elmira, N.Y., where Tommy Hilfiger opened his first local store in 1969 called People’s Place. Hilfiger and his family have maintained their connection to the community through their work and philanthropy.

“The partnership with Elmira College reflects much more than my personal connection to the area,” said Tommy Hilfiger, founder and principal designer of Tommy Hilfiger Corp., which generated $9.2 billion in global retail sales in 2019. “The fashion industry runs on a never-ending influx of new talent, and this program will be instrumental in shaping aspiring designers and entrepreneurs through firsthand knowledge and experience in the business.”

Tommy Hilfiger

Tommy Hilfiger  Craig McDean

He noted that Elmira College has a national reputation for experiential learning, both within and outside the classroom, “and this program will open up exciting career opportunities for students as well as boost the industry’s talent pool.” He expects to invite his network of industry contacts to lecture at the school.

“I want to give back to my hometown, Elmira, N.Y., and inspire students who are interested in pursuing studies in a career of fashion,” added Hilfiger. “My family and I have a long-standing relationship with Elmira College and we felt this would be a great addition to the business program. The opening of the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Business School is an exciting endeavor for my family and me.”

Scheduled to start in fall 2021, the program will offer a concentration and minor in fashion marketing and fashion merchandising, both new to the curriculum. Students within the fashion merchandising program will study the merchandising needs of a marketplace through research, design, data collection and analysis. The fashion marketing track will train students on how to research, collect and analyze data and develop marketing and communications strategies to launch brands in the marketplace.

“Elmira College’s business administration program has had a long relationship with the Hilfiger family,” said Betsy Hilfiger, the Hilfiger family liaison to Elmira College, where she took classes towards her RN degree. “We are looking forward to even greater collaboration and bringing real fashion industry expertise to the classroom through internship experiences with us and other fashion houses.”

The center of Elmira College’s campus.  courtesy shot.

“As a career field, the fashion industry provides many opportunities for talented professionals in both North America and emerging markets worldwide, and we saw this field as a key area for our focus on experiential learning and real-world career skills,” said Dr. Alison M. Wolfe, Elmira College business and economics chair. She noted that the fashion industry is one of the world’s largest customer-facing sectors with revenues estimated at $1.5 trillion a year.

Andy Hilfiger, vice president, partnership-marketing at Authentic Brands Group, added, “Guest lectures and internships through the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Business School will connect students with icons in the fashion industry. That interaction gives students an opportunity not available in a classroom setting. It’s a chance to learn about not only the daily operations of the fashion industry, but all the history, the people and the deep connections it has to other industries, such as the music industry.”

The creation of programs such as the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Business School is part of the college’s strategic plan to introduce industry-level knowledge to the next generation while preserving the essence of a liberal arts education. Elmira College will hire faculty when deemed appropriate for the courses.

“We know we need to adjust to the changing needs of a global workplace, as well as student expectations of a comprehensive education experience,” said Dr. Charles Lindsay, president of Elmira College. “Tomorrow’s workforce will be more complex than ever before. Programs and partnerships, like the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Business School, enable us to bridge a liberal arts education with professional studies and pave a path to success for our students. We are grateful to have the support of the Hilfiger family, and look forward to welcoming our first students to the program in the fall of 2021.”

Founded in 1855, Elmira College is a private, residential, liberal arts college in Elmira offering 35-plus majors, an honors program, 17 academic societies and 18 Division III varsity teams. It is located in the Southern Finger Lakes Region of New York.

Hilfiger, who didn’t attend college, said he started his People’s Place business right out of high school “and all the college students used to shop there.”

As previously reported, when he received the President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2019, Hilfiger told the graduates the best part of success cannot be defined by fame or money. “It is the opportunity to give back to the world and do more for the causes that are dear to your heart that will matter the most,” he said.

 

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