Already largely powered by 3-D design, and experimenting with avatars and holograms at its Amsterdam innovation center, Tommy Hilfiger could soon transform his itinerant TommyNow runway blowouts into extravaganzas in cyberspace.
“We are looking into that,” Daniel Grieder, chief executive officer of Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe, told WWD in an interview this week. “We try to fully digitize that value chain also, and try to enable virtual runway shows.”
The brand — which unveiled see-now-buy-now Lewis Hamilton and H.E.R. collaborations at the Tate Modern last February, and has taken its roving showcase to cities as far afield as Los Angeles and Shanghai — has yet to indicate its intentions for the next fashion-week cycle, and Grieder could not say precisely when the brand might move off the physical circuit.
“We did some tests, it’s something new and I think the end consumer and the trade will like it,” he said. “As soon as this virus is over, and we are back to the new normal, we will try to implement that within a few months. The technology is already around, technology tested by us, and we see great opportunities going in that direction.”
The founding designer stressed he is open to new possibilities, especially as the coronavirus pandemic topples fashion weeks and prompts a rethink of industry practices.
“From Day One, I’ve always listened to what the consumer wants, and embraced that as the starting point for my designs and to create unique pop culture experiences,” Hilfiger said. “Digital technology has become something most of us can no longer live without — never has this been truer than in today’s unprecedented landscape. As technology evolves, so does its ability to bring us together and reach new creative heights. I can’t reveal yet how exactly this is going to look for us in the future, but I can promise the best is yet to come!”
Grieder noted that augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality solutions are all under consideration.
“We have created avatars. You can use them as fit models, we can even do campaigns with them, we can integrate them into fashion shows. We have it in place, but we have not yet used it in the outside world as we are still testing and experiencing internally,” Grieder said.
“Any innovation that is happening in that area, we try to test, we try to implement where it makes sense,” Grieder added. “You have to understand and figure out what’s relevant for your brand.”
All these efforts underscore the company’s ambition to digitize its end-to-end value chain. In 2015, it rolled out a digital showroom for wholesale buying at its Amsterdam headquarters, and last November, the company disclosed ambitions to begin designing entirely in 3-D starting with spring 2022.
Already, 66 percent of Hilfiger’s designers are trained in 3-D design, and by the end of the year it’s gunning for 100 percent, Grieder said.
Some 35 product groups are designed in 3-D, representing about 80 percent coverage of the brand universe, said Anne-Christine Polet, senior vice president of digital ventures at Hilfiger. She added that since November, “we have doubled the number of styles that are now designed in 3-D.
“It allows for a first-time right approach. You can see all the details, the linings, the trimmings,” Polet marveled, citing time and significant cost reductions “when you don’t have to create or photograph physical samples.”
Digital design also “allows for business to continue” despite widespread interruptions wrought by the COVID-19 outbreak, she noted.
Grieder cited some initial resistance to its digital sales showrooms, and hesitancy among some design staff trained in traditional methods of creating fashions. “It requires a change of mind-set, but once you understand how it works, you are much faster, you are more effective, and it allows you to change things, to be more reactive to the trends,” he explained.
Polet said the shift to 3-D design has revealed hidden talent in its organization, and the company is now recruiting software engineers and modeling experts from other industries to help it meet its digitization goals.
“We’ve scaled 3-D to such an extent there’s going to be a lot of opportunity to leverage that in a consumer-facing way,” she added. “It sets us up to deliver a digital experience to the consumer in the near future.”
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