NEW YORK — In a scene right out of “The Wizard of Oz,” Tommy Hilfiger’s preppy beach house has landed at 1 Little West 12th Street here.
This story first appeared in the May 4, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Although it didn’t kill any witches, the house came complete with a doghouse in the front yard (for Morgan IV, not Toto), curtains on the windows, a weather vane perched on the roof, a mailbox, outdoor furniture and cedar shake shingles. Inside is the Prep World collection, featuring 60 pieces of women and men’s sportswear, as well as accoutrement such as tennis racquets, Ping-Pong paddles, badminton rackets, croquet sets, bamboo bicycles and surfboards — all for sale.
The 800-square-foot beach cottage, which opens to the public Thursday, will remain here (directly across the street from Pastis) for four days. Versions of it will then be set up in various cities around the globe for similar events.
“We wanted to do a pop-up shop in a totally different way,” said Tommy Hilfiger Tuesday, as he relaxed on a white wooden lawn chair outside the house. “We built the ultimate preppy beach house.” He said the house will travel to such cities as London, Milan, Hamburg and Stockholm, where he and Lisa Birnbach, author of “True Prep: It’s a Whole New Old World,” will make some personal appearances.
The company received permits to set up the beach cottage in highly trafficked areas in the various cities. The pop-up house, which already had a first stop at the Centre Pompidou in Paris last month, will hit New York’s Gansevoort Plaza beginning Thursday until May 8; London’s Covent Garden Piazza from Thursday to May 15; Stockholm, opposite the Grand Hôtel and Royal Castle, May 12 to 22; The Grove in Los Angeles, June 10 to 12; Milan’s Corso Vittorio Emanuele, off the Duomo square, June 17 to 25; Madrid’s Plaza de Serrano or Place Felipe II, June 23 through July 3; Sylt at Kampen, July 21 to July 31, and Knokke at Albertplein, Aug. 4 to 16. Hilfiger and Birnbach plan to attend the events in New York, London and Los Angeles.
Because of French regulations, clothing was unable to be sold at the Paris beach cottage — which attracted 1,000 people each day — but there were shuttle buses taking customers to Hilfiger’s Paris store on the Champs-Elysées. In all the other cities, however, clothing will be sold at the beach house.
In addition, Hilfiger and Birnbach will lecture to students at universities or fashion schools in London, Hamburg, Milan, Paris and Madrid. As part of the Hamburg program, the two will judge 14 students who have been commissioned to design “the ultimate preppy look” as part of a course. The winner will receive a three-month internship at Hilfiger’s European headquarters in Amsterdam.
The duo will lecture and answer questions about the preppy lifestyle. “It’s a way of life that’s different in the U.S. than it is in Italy, France and Japan, and even Rio,” said Hilfiger. “In France, preppy is a little more elegant; in Italy, it’s more colorful and a little bit chicer, and in Sweden, trousers are skinnier and more tapered.” He noted that in England, preppy is “very authentic; they might wear a wool sweater with real moth holes, as well as Wellies and a Barbour jacket.” Birnbach added that in Spain, men wear bright red chinos and khakis, and in Japan they wear bright colors. Birnbach said she’s looking forward to explaining the roots of preppiness to the students.
“I’m so psyched about that,” she said. “I want to given them a crash history” in preppy iconography, the buckles, stripes, webbing. “I want to put it in context. The reason the books are successful is it takes stuff and gives it the grounding. I know the Europeans love it, and the Asians love it, and they’ll love it more when I put in context, from John F. Kennedy to John Updike to anyone named John from New England,” she said.
The Prep World line will be sold exclusively in 250 Hilfiger stores worldwide, as well as on a microsite, which goes live Thursday, on tommy.com, and in the Prep World shops. Retail prices range from $45 to $178 for women’s and $35 to $298 for men’s.
Birnbach collaborated with Hilfiger’s team on the Web site presentation. Tommy.com/prep will feature a guide to preppiness for every city the house goes. For example, the guide will point out where to find the most preppy accessories in London. Birnbach researched each of the cities, interviewed people there, and wrote the copy. Birnbach’s book, which is in its fourth printing and is coming out in paperback in November, will also be sold at the Prep World houses, as well as at Hilfiger stores around the world.