Tommy Hilfiger and Gigi Hadid with models before the Tommy Hilfiger RTW Spring 2017 show

Tommy Hilfiger took his audience on a wild carnival ride Friday night at Pier 16 at South Street Seaport to present the Tommy x Gigi collection designed in collaboration with Gigi Hadid.

This story first appeared in the September 10, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

As WWD first reported, the set was literally a carnival complete with a Ferris Wheel, Tornado ride, hotdogs, hamburgers, lobster rolls and more. It was all part of Hilfiger’s push to join the growing “see-now-buy-now” movement. The collection was available to purchase immediately after the show through e-commerce, retail, wholesale and social commerce channels.

“Two words to describe the whole thing are ‘game changing,’” Hilfiger said. “For not only us but for the industry. I think other people will follow as a result of the need to please the consumer.” He called the event, dubbed #TommyNow, “a massive effort.”

Hadid, who opened the show wearing a Tommy x Gigi cotton band jacket, tank and leather moto pants, added, “I couldn’t have asked for a better first design experience. I was free to give my opinions and could offer what I wanted. They taught me so much and gave me space to learn on my own.”

For her first design meeting she was supposed to spend two hours and stayed eight. “Obviously it’s so much fun and I’m mostly excited to see how people react to it,” she said. She said she’s looking forward to the second collection next spring and could possibly continue. “It depends on demand,” she said.

As for the best part of the whole experience, Hadid said, “This is so cool,” pointing to the pier. “It’s been such a fun journey. It’s been a year. It’s really exciting to see it all come together so beautifully.”

The catwalk featured 36 looks, half of which were Tommy x Gigi, and the other half, Tommy Hilfiger. Some 72 models walked the runway (each look worn simultaneously by two models walking two parallel long runways). Industry guests were seated along one runway, while the consumer contingent stood along the other runway. Tommy x Gigi became available for sale Friday night,immediately following the show in 70 countries, including five top doors at Macy’s (pop-up shops), macys.com, tommy.com, Tommy Hilfiger freestanding stores, Selfridges, Galeries Lafayette, Rinascente, Amazon, Alibaba and Revolve.com.

One of the more interesting distribution channels is a commerce partnership with Facebook Messenger for “conversational commerce,” which is powered by artificial intelligence.

The designer said he’s the first brand in the fashion space to use this technology on this scale. They have created a bot called “Tommy Girl,” which interacts as host and friend with the consumer. The bot responds based on what the customer is interested in. “What this allows us to do is to bridge engagement with the brand and conversion. If you want to browse the collection, she [the bot] serves up appropriate content. If you want to shop, she’ll give you different kinds of content,” said Avery Baker, chief marketing and brand officer at Hilfiger. Because it’s artificial-intelligence driven, it [the bot] learns as it goes. So far, they have come up with 7,000 answers to questions that consumers might have. “The bot gets smarter. It starts to see how people are behaving and what they’re asking, and can anticipate even more,” she said.

In addition, each of Hilfiger’s social platforms, such as Pinterest, Facebook 360, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, became shoppable with the Tommy x Gigi collection, starting Friday night. It was also available to purchase via digital touchscreens, and remotely through live-stream.

The entire Tommy x Gigi project proved to be a logistical challenge. Hilfiger had to introduce a new supply chain calendar, changing manufacturing, fabric buying, accessories, shipping, distribution and design deadlines. The fall 2016 collection was actually presented and sold to retailers back in January and February. Over the next few months, the company injected some additional pieces to freshen up the offerings.

Describing Tommy x Gigi’s aesthetic, Hilfiger said the collection is based upon Hadid’s casual, relaxed southern California lifestyle. Military and sport-inspired looks included oversize hoodies, military coats, high-waisted jeans, motorcycle leather jeans, baseball and bomber jackets, peacoats, capes, T-shirts and sweatshirts. They also offered accessories, such as handbags, sneakers, shoes and boots. Tommy x Gigi ready-to-wear retails from $24.50 to $495, while accessories range from $25.50 to $265. The logo has both Hadid’s and Hilfiger’s name on it.

According to Baker, the company did a test with Mytheresa, and the flag logo items sold well. It also did a soft launch in Europe and already they’re seeing the cape and peacoat, and other outerwear pieces doing well.

Hilfiger and Baker said they expect the Tommy x Gigi capsule to have a rub-off effect on Hilfiger’s entire women’s business. “We’ve been repositioning the women’s line and wanted to bring back a youthful vibe that Tommy is known for. Already, this has had a significant halo effect,” Baker said. Neither Hilfiger nor Baker would disclose how much volume Tommy x Gigi is expected to generate for the year.

Hadid first became involved with the Hilfiger brand in fall 2015 when she walked in the football-themed 30th anniversary fashion show wearing a red cape. Hilfiger said they considered making her the new Tommy Girl or using her in an ad campaign, but then Baker came up with the idea to do a capsule with her. “The capsule collection turned into a full-blown collection,” Hilfiger said.

An ambassador to Hilfiger’s women’s collection, Hadid is also the face of the brand’s new fragrance called The Girl, from The Estee Lauder Cos. Inc.

“We have very big expectations with everything with Gigi,” Hilfiger said. “I think the buy-now-wear now triggers our future development of the business. It’s a way young people want to shop. They’re tired of looking at something on the runway and waiting six months for it.”

Hadid’s deal with Hilfiger continues through next spring, and the spring 2017 collection has already been shown and sold to retailers. Whether it continues beyond that hasn’t been decided.

Last season, Hilfiger’s show created one billion media impressions, and the designer predicted that this one will create two billion media impressions. There will also be a significant ad campaign encompassing the launch, spanning outdoor, radio, digital and print. Free tickets, which were offered to consumers through various channels, sold out in a half hour. The collaboration is expected to be fueled by Hadid’s popularity — the model has  22.5 million followers on Instagram and 2.97 million followers on Twitter.

In addition to Friday night’s event, consumers are welcome to visit the “Tommy Pier” Saturday from noon to 8 p.m., where they could shop at two Tommy x Gigi pop-up shops, a Tommy Hilfiger vintage shop curated by Frankie Collective, and Hilfiger Records by Jones Music Vintage Vinyl. In addition to enjoying fairground foods named in honor of Hilfiger’s family members — Ally’s Donuts, Ginny’s Burgers, Foo Foo’s mozzarella sticks, Dee’s Lobster Rolls, and Ricky’s Hotdogs — fair rides, and a 40-foot Ferris wheel, activities include a roster of DJs, large format LED screens that are broadcasting the show, nail art by Valley, temporary tattoos by Tattly, a pop-up studio by Bert Krak from Smith Street Tattoo Parlour and another appearance by Hadid.

How does he expect to beat this over-the-top experience next time?

“That’s a good question,” Hilfiger said. “We know we’ll learn a lot. But we think we have pretty much checked off every box.”

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