Tommy Hilfiger Channels “Warhol” For His Grand Return To NYFW

Ahead of the highly talked about fête of fashion and art, V got the inside scoop on the creative process behind one of New York Fashion Weeks’ best runway shows of the season

Bright, young, and bold, Tommy Hilfiger’s “Tommy Factory” collection debuted at New York Fashion Week with an Andy Warhol-inspired show—complete with a silver runway inspired by the late American Pop artist’s famed tin-covered studio. With a lively event completed by a full spectrum of models, from plus size to those of indigenous descent marching along the runway to upbeat techno-pop (and loads of Beyonce, naturally), the industry’s top models were paired with statement accessories and multi-layered looks that established a fluidity in the styling, recognizing young America’s openness towards gender expression while still being true to Tommy Hilfiger’s preppy roots. It is only fitting that the American brand took inspiration from the late famed pop artist, as the parallels between the two, bright, bold, and unapologetically American household names have equally made a mark on fashion that continues to exceed expectations.

Before the highly-anticipated show, V’s Digital & Beauty Editor Kevin Ponce caught up with Tommy Hilfiger to chat about the collection, the immersive experience, and entering the metaverse.

Kevin Ponce: How are you, Tommy? Let’s start there. Got any pre-show jitters?

Tommy Hilfiger: No, not really. Maybe on the day of.

KP: Do you still get nervous before every show?

TH: It depends on how chaotic it is backstage. I mean, sometimes when we’re backstage and we have maybe not enough space, then it’s little nerve-wracking, but I think we’re very organized which is a good thing. 

KP: I like that a designer can confidently say “we’re organized”. It’s usually not the case.

TH: Well, we have three days before the show, so [usually], the day before the show, we have loose ends, you could say but we’re still pretty organized.

KP: Like most brands, you know, there are little things to do. I heard that you were just in a music meeting for the show. I thought that was so brilliant that you curate everything down to the music. Were you always so hands-on since the beginning?

TH: I’ve been very involved forever when it comes to the music [for the shows] and it’s going to be great [this season].

KP: With the runway show, we’ll be seeing the collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger and Richard Quinn. How did this even come about?

TH: [When] we formed a relationship with him, we found that when he was in design school, he was wearing our tartan plaid shirts while still a student. We love his vibe and we thought that the combination of his look with our look would be a great marriage. It brings our preppy, all-American [look] into a whole new vibe. I think it’s probably the best collaboration we’ve done because of his art, but also his fashion sense.

KP: Completely, it’s a merging of codes. Where some people would be quite scared, I think there’s a symphony of fashion–it’s harmonious to me. 

TH: Thank you. 

KP: And that spiked and studded leather jacket is fantastic.

TH: Did you feel the weight of that?

KP: Yes. I didn’t care how much it weighed. It felt like someone was hugging me and I loved it. And that piece, along with many others, is part of the whole “Tommy Factory” runway show theme that is based on [Andy] Warhol. How are we going to visually see or experience the factory?

TH: We’re going to show many of the people in the audience how a fashion show is made. You will [enter through] the backstage and you’ll see everything that is going on. How this whole show is coming together and how it’s being made. I was inspired by Andy [Warhol] when I met him in the early eighties and I loved the fact that he brought people from all walks of life together, particularly people from fashion, art, music, entertainment, celebrity, and, at that time, society. He had a sense of humor with his paintings that were kind of avant-garde and unreal. He was everywhere in New York from Studio 54 to The Mudd Club, [always at] the hotspots. Always mingled with really cool, interesting people and then he would bring them into his world. When I started my brand, I wanted to surround myself with musicians and pop culture icons, and that’s what we’ve done all these years and been really connected to the culture–whether it was skate culture, hip hop culture, or surf culture, but always having these sort of preppy roots that would be merged with someone else’s idea.

KP: Having that be the foundation of your DNA, how do you get educated on these new and evolving cultures and the underground scenes that are just beginning? Are you always keeping your eyes open?

TH: I’m just a student of what is going on in the world of the culture. Whether it’s sports culture or music and art culture. I have children who are in their twenties, thirties, and teens so I’m very aware of who’s who and what’s what, but naturally, I’m more fascinated with music and the musicians and artists as a whole. My relationships with various people in the musical, celebrity, or entertainment world is meaningful because they’ll say ‘you know, we’re with so and so at the Sunset Marquis. Why don’t we bring that person into our world?’. 

KP: So, I guess it’s safe to say that this show, now three years back, is going to be a restart of that energy. 

TH: Yes, like a culmination of that. 

KP: You know, everything’s gone digital and beyond and now trying to see its way back to physical. Do you think there’s still room for physical activations in this industry?

TH: I think you need “phygital”–both the physical and the digital combined, which is what we’re doing in the metaverse yes. We’re doing our third partnership with Roblox, but this time it’s going to be all about Tommy and Roblox in New York and it’s going to be streamed during the show.

KP: Were you ever scared to begin entering this meta world that so many are tapping into now?

TH: Never–I was looking for it. I was looking for the next step, after we did see now, buy now, and turned the show into an experience where one could shop while the show was going on. I kept thinking, okay, what is next? And during COVID, I really studied the metaverse and thought ‘okay, we have to embrace it. We have to be a part of it because the community and our fans are living in the metaverse.’

KP: Completely. We’re all submerged in it, beginning with our very phones. What did that research process look like for you when you were getting into this?

TH: I started studying what was going on in Japan, in the gaming world [in particular] and then it just led me into it.

KP: You fell into a Meta black hole if anything.

TH: *laugh* Exactly. It’s all about the future. I think we’re gonna take it to a new level in terms of what a fashion show means because it’s going to be a real experience.

KP: In comparison to the other shows that you’ve done in the past, what is the difference in the impact that the show will deliver?

TH: It’s all very connected to our global ad campaign launching the next day, where we have stars like Kate and Lyla Moss, Lady Bunny, a famous tattoo artist who does all the NBA players and all the rappers tattooing Travis Barker in real-time, with Jon Batiste, Alton Mason, Mr. Brainwash, the street artist. So we have all of these different personalities in the Tommy Factory so it’s all part of one completely immersive Tommy experience. 

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