ANDY HILFIGER ON VERGE OF BIG FASHION DEALS WITH LOPEZ, SPEARS

Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — J. Lo Jeans and Britney Juniors?
Speculation intensified Thursday that Tommy Hilfiger was about to sign two of the hottest stars in America today — Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez — to major licensing deals. However, it turns out that it’s not Tommy, but his younger brother, Andy, who is behind the new enterprise, WWD has learned.
Andy Hilfiger, who successfully laid the groundwork for Tommy Hilfiger’s connection to the rock and hip-hop worlds, has set up a new music and fashion business and is said by sources to be in negotiations for two major apparel licensing deals with Spears and Lopez. Andy Hilfiger couldn’t be reached for comment.
His new company, MEFI, stands for Music Entertainment Fashion Inc. and isn’t connected to Tommy Hilfiger Corp. MEFI plans to manufacture clothing lines for celebrities.
According to entertainment sources, MEFI would develop a junior sportswear line for Spears — with an urban bent — and a jeans line called J. Lo for Jennifer Lopez. J. Lo is the name of Lopez’s chart-topping album.
A bass guitarist, the 39-year-old Andy Hilfiger has been involved with his brother’s business since its inception. He currently serves as vice president of public relations for Tommy Jeans and has been instrumental in helping Tommy Hilfiger blend music and fashion. He was the force behind many of the biggest rap and rock stars wearing Hilfiger’s clothing, such as Salt ‘N’ Pepa, Snoop Doggy Dog, Eve, Lil’ Kim and TLC. He has also dressed The Rolling Stones (when Tommy Hilfiger Corp. sponsored the Stones’ “No Security Tour”) Michael Jackson, L.L. Cool J, Metallica, the Spice Girls and The Fugees.
“It’s important for musicians to hook up with the right fashion companies to get the look they want,” said Andy Hilfiger in an earlier interview.
Playing bass, Andy Hilfiger opened up the VH1 fashion show with Kid Rock last fall.
In 1999, Andy Hilfiger started his own record label in partnership with Quincy Jones called Andy Hilfiger Entertainment (AH!). He currently has a deal with ADA, Warner Bros.’ independent distribution arm. His label includes Michael Fredo and Zelma Davis.
In his role at Tommy Jeans, Andy Hilfiger first brought the then-17-year-old pop singer Spears to the attention of his brother in the fall of 1998. They watched her video and immediately signed her for the Tommy Jeans spring ad campaign.
On the day of the photo shoot at a New York recording studio, Spears’s single and album went to number one on the Billboard chart. At the time, Andy Hilfiger told WWD: “She’s perfect for that junior jeanswear audience. And now her video is on MTV every five minutes.”
Tommy Jeans print ads featuring Spears broke in the spring of 1999 teen and music magazines. Spears also did in-store appearances to promote Tommy Jeans, which was the presenting sponsor for her North American concert tour in the summer of 1999. The tour, in support of Spears’s debut album, “Baby One More Time,” hit about 40 cities in the U.S. and 10 in Canada.
As title sponsor, Tommy Jeans had its name and logo on all marquees, tickets and advertising for the concert. In addition, Tommy Jeans provided outfits for Spears for all performances — exclusive of stage costumes — and her band and dancers.
The 19-year-old Spears — whose fans range from Madonna to Prince William — came out with her second album, “Oops!….I Did it Again,” last year. Last September, Spears’s flesh-colored outfit at the MTV Video Music Awards created a furor, as it made her look scantily clad, and earlier this year, she signed a deal to star in a $10 million movie.
The 30-year old Lopez — who caused her own stir last year with her body-baring Versace gown at the Grammys — has been closely aligned with the fashion world, where she has appeared on the covers of W and Elle. An actress and singer, she has starred in such films as “Out of Sight,” “Selena,” “The Cell” and “The Wedding Planner,” and she has also produced two albums, “On the Six” and “J. Lo.” Earlier this year, Lopez held the distinction of being the first female to have a number-one-selling album and movie out at the same time.
The former girlfriend of Sean “Puffy” Combs, Lopez may have to testify in Combs’s gun possession trial today, following the rap singer’s testimony on Thursday.
Some fashion observers believe Lopez has been eager to launch her own clothing line for some time.
In a recent WWD story, Sonya Owens, owner of the two-unit Atlanta chain Mack’s Cab Co., suggested that Lopez should follow in the steps of her former “bad-boy boyfriend” (Sean “Puffy” Combs) and launch a line of clothing because “she’s going to give them sexy urban.”
If Lopez launched a line, Owens said, “the Puerto Rican community will come out for her because they love and support her.” But Owens is quick to add the Lopez persona is one that extends beyond any one race or ethnic background.