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Tommy’s whistling a younger tune.

This story first appeared in the October 22, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

On Thursday, Tommy Hilfiger unveiled the first Tommy boutique in the U.S., a 1,000-square-foot store at 375 Bleecker Street in Manhattan, in a former Hilfiger collection location. Plans call for two other U.S. Hilfiger stores to convert to Tommy boutiques — a 4,930-square-foot Tommy store at The Westchester in White Plains, N.Y., will open Oct. 29 and a 3,300-square-foot unit will open in the Georgetown neighborhood in Washington next month. On Wednesday, two Tommy stores made their debut in Toronto.

“This is downtown prep. It’s quirkier and younger and more irreverent,” said Tommy Hilfiger, interviewed at the Bleecker Street store Thursday.

Tommy differs from the Tommy Hilfiger flagship sportswear stores, which are more “uptown prep, more refined and more grown up,” he said. “This is focused on the younger customer. As we grow sportswear up, we don’t want to abandon the young crowd.” The line will also be available at beginning in the spring. Hilfiger is a division of Phillips-Van Heusen Corp.

Aimed at 20- to 30-year-old customers, the Tommy merchandise is accessibly priced. For example, Tommy knits will retail from $24 to $59, denim will run from $69 to $129, and outerwear will start at $129 for men and $139 for women. The collection is sourced through Li & Fung Ltd. and manufactured in the U.S., Asia, India and Mexico. The Tommy stores aren’t designed to compete with the exclusive sportswear collection for men, women’s and children’s for Macy’s, which is similarly priced. “Macy’s is very happy with their business. It skews a bit older.…the 24- to 45-year-old,” said Hilfiger.

Gary Sheinbaum, chief executive officer of Tommy Hilfiger North America, explained: “Anything that continues to make the brand aspirational and cool is good for the brand. I think Macy’s will see it that way. It makes it more relevant for today.”

The Tommy collection has no logos but carries signature details which give it a more hand-crafted feel. For example, the jeans have “His” and “Her” labels on the inside, and have a stamp on an inside panel that reads “Made in Elmira, New York” and “Designed in the USA.” The women’s offerings, for example, range from black wool shorts and chunky cable-knit wool cardigans to denim jackets and black strapless sequin dresses. Accessories, such as chunky necklaces, knit hats, watches, belts, luggage and footwear, are displayed on the wall.

Trent Wisehart, executive vice president of global creative services, explained that the merchandise is designed “that you can buy an outfit in a conservative way or in an edgier way.” He noted that everything comes from one design team’s sensibility.

“There’s a lot of experimentation with fabrics, washes and displays. It gives us the opportunity to understand the young customer again,” added Hilfiger.

The Bleecker location, which is much smaller than the targeted 4,500-square-foot store, is accented with bicycle parts hanging from the ceiling and a modern string art installation decorating the front window. An office supply theme is evident throughout, such as a shirt pockets carrying pencils, colored Post-its, a vintage office desk and a chalkboard. Neon furniture, boxwoods in the Bleecker store garden, rubber band balls at the check-out counter, and vintage taxidermy — a few adorned with hats and nerd glasses — decorate the walls. Slogans such as “Say what you mean. Wear what you love” are hand-written on the walls.

“Tommy as a brand is all about color and pattern and a quirky sense of humor,” said Wisehart. “They all play a role in the store design and the clothing.” He said the drapes are hand-crafted, and he tried to mix modern with vintage, creating an amusing environment for young women and men. Three dressing rooms are located downstairs.

Hilfiger has five stores in the U.S. featuring Tommy Hilfiger flag sportswear. In addition to the Fifth Avenue flagship, there are two other stores in Manhattan as well as a store on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach and one in Aventura, Fla., Worldwide, there are 1,000 Hilfiger stores.

Sheinbaum noted the Tommy stores “are purely a test,” and they want to see how they perform before they expand the concept to other cities. “We want to do everything we can to engage this [younger] customer,” said Sheinbaum, declining to give volume projections. “Ultimately scale is critical. Between e-commerce, the five stores we’ll have and the potential for global stores, it’ll be very worthwhile. Once it’s relevant, cool and aspirational, anything is possible.”

There are no plans at this time to wholesale the Tommy collection. “This is purely customer-centic. Everything we do is vertical and targeted to the end customer,” said Sheinbaum. Merchandise will be shipped continuously and will change often. Hilfiger is publishing a ’zine that will be mailed out to between 300,000 and 400,000 customers in Canada and New York. Right now the merchandise mix is 50-50 women’s to men’s. “I think eventually women’s could be bigger,” said Sheinbaum.

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