NEW YORK — Just one more week, and Tommy Hilfiger will be a reality TV star.

The designer’s new show, “The Cut,” airing for the first time in a 90-minute episode on CBS on June 9 at 8 p.m., will be “full of surprises,” Hilfiger promised in an hour-long conference call on Wednesday.

Like any designer before revealing a collection, Hilfiger was careful not to divulge too many details while teasing with a preview. He said the show’s 16 contestants exceeded his expectations in meeting their tough challenges and the participants — who included a fashion stylist from Chicago, a Los Angeles-based professional skateboarder, a St. Louis housewife and a Brooklyn graphic designer — all surprised him with their talents. He didn’t, of course, say what those were.

“Expect the unexpected with this show. This is not ‘The Apprentice’ or ‘Project Runway,'” he said, mentioning the two hit shows to which “The Cut” has been compared. “It is truly something unique.”

The taping lasted 14 weeks and followed Hilfiger and the contestants from the SoHo loft where all the participants lived to the streets of New York City to the design room as they all competed for the ultimate prize of landing a chance to design a collection under the Tommy Hilfiger label. The winner will receive a $250,000 salary — not bad when most fledgling designers barely make a third of that — and a one-year contract with the design house.

“We will put the collection out in the stores and let the public judge,” Hilfiger said.

In choosing the winner, he said he looked for someone who not only had talent in fashion design but had business savvy, proper social skills and a clear understanding of popular culture, which includes fashion, art, music and entertainment, or what Hilfiger calls “FAME.” He didn’t say how many major designers would have passed the test.

“Running a multibillion dollar brand is not just about knowing fashion design, so you will see them go through tasks that will include things outside of fashion design. I really pushed them to the limits to allow me to see if they are capable of joining my company,” he said.

This story first appeared in the June 2, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The premiere will be the first of four Thursday night episodes. The remaining nine episodes will air on a different day throughout the summer months. “The Cut” is produced by Lions Gate Television in association with Pilgrim Films and Television. Craig Piligian is executive producer, along with Peter Connolly, president of worldwide marketing at Hilfiger.

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