Tommy Hilfiger reveals he wanted to be a rock’n’roll star but was ‘tone deaf’ and remembers how his strict parents tried to ban him from wearing ‘bad boy’ tight jeans as a teen
- New York born Hilfiger said he was inspired by British bands like Rolling Stones
- The designer was fascinated by London scene which sparked fashion revolution
- He was inspired to travel to the UK and start his fashion line in the 1980s
Tommy Hilfiger has revealed he purchased his first pair of Levi’s jeans and Converse sneakers at the age of 13 in a bid to be a rock’n’roll star – but was forced to sneak out of the house so his parents didn’t see his tight jeans.
The New York born designer, now 70, says bands including The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin – who were at the height of fame at the start of the designer’s career – had sparked a ‘fashion revolution’ and inspired his clothing line.
The American fashion guru, who began designing preppy clothing for his own eponymous menswear line in the 1980s and later expanded into womenswear, said that he was inspired by the British rock scene to travel to London in his early twenties.
American Tommy Hilfiger says he used to sneak out of the house so his parents didn’t see his ‘bad boy’ tight jeans and was inspired by the British rock scene to travel to London in his early twenties
The American fashion guru, pictured in 2019, said bands like The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin – who were at the height of fame at the start of the designer’s career – sparked a ‘fashion revolution’
‘I had to sneak out of the house because my parents didn’t want me wearing really, really tight jeans’, he said in an interview with The Sunday Times Style magazine.
‘They thought that was for, you know, the bad boys. I wanted to be a rock’n’roll star, but I was tone deaf.’
He said that the rock scene in Britain inspired him, calling looks coming from Carnaby Street and the King’s Road ‘revolutionary’.
‘All of the style was coming from London with the Beatles, the Stones and Led Zeppelin’, he said.
The designer’s brand hit mainstream fame in the 1990s. Pictured, Naomi Campbell waking in a Tommy Hilfiger runway show in 1999
Hilfiger left school to open the People’s Place store in upstate New York in 1971, selling bell-bottoms, peasant blouses, and leather jackets before starting to design clothes of his own.
When the People’s Place went bankrupt in 1977, Hilfiger enrolled in classes on the business side of the fashion industry.
After working for various labels the designer founded his own company called Tommy Hill in 1979 before securing funding for a high-profile marketing campaign in 1985.
He said that the rock scene in Britain inspired him, calling looks coming from Carnaby Street and the Kings Road ‘revolutionary’. Pictured, a model walking in a Tommy Hilfiger runway show in the 90s
Within a few years of launching the label he had joined greats such as Ralph Lauren in becoming synonymous with the all-American casualwear look that has defined mainstream fashion in the States since the 1980s.
A lifelong rock fan, Hilfiger’s collections are often influenced by the music subcultures and he became one of the first designers to sponsor artist tours – from Lenny Kravitz to Britney Spears.
By 1992 Hilfiger had expanded into women’s clothing and luxury items, and the preppy brand became synonymous with the hip hop scene – with R&B artist Aaliyah becoming a highly publicised spokesperson for Tommy Hilfiger Corporation in 1997.
Hilfiger sold his company for $1.6 billion in 2006. In March 2010, the brand was sold to Phillips-Van Heusen, the owner of Calvin Klein from Apax Partners for $3 billion.