After 30 years of building a multibillion dollar brand from the ground up, Tommy Hilfiger has been busy writing about how his company together and how his life has unfolded.
Part biography, part business book, “American Dreamer” will be published in October by Random House. The tome’s online description refers to “the definitive memoir of a timeless fashion icon,” but the designer offered his take on the work that went into putting pen to paper.
“It’s been months and months of writing. It’s like therapy. I remember a lot from Max’s [Kansas City] and Studio 54 — all of that period. It’s been fun,” said Hilfiger Tuesday night at the Fashion Group International’s Rising Stars cocktail party at Saks Fifth Avenue. His wife Dee Ocleppo, who has her own company, is in-the-running for the accessories award. “The Seventies, to me, were crazy. We’d go to Max’s Kansas City and Studio 54. It was people from fashion, music — everyone was there. It was all night, all night.”
Having flipped through memories from his childhood in Elmira, N.Y., the Manhattan club scene in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties, and then on through the arc of creating his now $6.7 billion PVH-owned company, Hilfiger said some flashbacks came easier than others. “I have a photographic memory. I remember the colors of the banquettes at Max’s Kansas City. If I see something that is interesting to me, I remember it. But I have to comb through my Rolodex [to figure out] what was the name of that person,” he said. “I had to dig and dig and dig and go way back and think about my life from when I was old enough to remember until now, and in chronological order.”
Aside from the personal insights, Hilfiger will offer readers some business advice. “It’s interesting also because I describe how I built the brand. A lot of people who are building brands, whether they’re fashion brands or other brands, could learn a lot from the way we did it. And I had a lot of help from a lot of incredible people. I mean the best in the business, so I think that will be a learning tool for certain people.”
As entrepreneurs across the country are striving to create American-made businesses in cities such as Detroit and Providence, R.I., Hilfiger will offer the vantage point of someone who has more than succeeded. “Competing in the global marketplace, [you have to figure out] how do you do that with a brand born in America. I wouldn’t say it’s a science but there is a lot of strategizing that goes on,” he said.
The American-made designer is also banking on a book tour to help spread the word about “American Dreamer.” He said, “I think you have to go out and promote if you’re going to do it. I’ll do some.”
Having read the galley for her husband’s book over the holidays, his wife mentioned how they had recently discussed that, when Hilfiger started and opened a Columbus Avenue store, Gap or Abercrombie & Fitch weren’t the national presences they are today. “I think it’s going to be a bestseller easily — I’m not biased at all,” she said. “But it really is the authentic American dream. It’s the real deal. It’s the real story.”
Hilfiger smiled and said, “She’s my fan.”