Byline: Lisa Lockwood, March 1996

Tommy Hilfiger is determined to get women back into department stores this fall. “There are customers between the ages of 18 and 50 who shop in malls, but are drawn into specialty stores. They’ve been turned off by the department stores. The merchandise hasn’t excited them,” said Hilfiger, who hopes to change all that when he unveils his new women’s casualwear and jeans lines.
He believes these better-priced collections are just the antidote for a depressed women’s sportswear business. “I think the demise of the business in department stores gives me a better opportunity to capitalize on the situation,” said Hilfiger, who expects to do $100 million in wholesale volume with the women’s lines in their first year.
“We think the opportunity in women’s is much larger than men’s,” said Hilfiger.
Some 25 percent of the business will be fashion that is “Mod, hip and fresh.”
“It’s to keep my design team inspired,” said Hilfiger. “We’ll set trends in that area. We can take Mod and make it more fun. We take trends and make them important to the fashion world.”
Part of Hilfiger’s success in men’s wear has been his ability to dress a range of people from 15-year-old high school students to 60-year-old golfers. He’s also become the designer of choice for such rappers as Salt-N-Pepa, Snoop Doggy-Dog and TLC.
“I think it had to do with the fact that we pushed certain buttons within the music world,” said Hilfiger. “Rock and rap stars started wearing my clothes. We dress a lot of athletes and actors on ‘Beverly Hills 90210.’ These people send a message of what is hip and what is allowed.”
While Hilfiger acknowledged that few men’s wear designers have been able to successfully cross over to women’s apparel, he believes he’s got a great chance to succeed.
“The stores kept saying, ‘Do what you do for men for women,” said Hilfiger, explaining why he went for a better-priced casualwear line, and not a pricy designer collection. “It’s not exactly men for women. We have to have a certain amount of femininity to it.”