Interview with Tommy Hilfiger

Tommy Hilfiger



«The book about your past life that you published [with Peter Knobler, a former journalist], is a very open, honest book. Why?» – «I think, when doing something like that, one should do it properly. I have nothing to hide. And if some people don’t like it, they may not buy my clothes anymore. But I don’t think I wrote anything terribly abusive.» (He writes for example that he had a violent father that had often beaten him as a child. Or that at least two of his children had drug problems and that the small son he has with his second wife is autistic.) «The title of the book ‹American Dreamer›, is nice but, with respect, wrong. I perceive you as a doer, a realist … dreamers don’t build companies that they sell for billions.» – «But I had dreams and and my dreams turned into something. I was a dreamer, I am a dreamer; I still dream about what could come next for me.» – «Do you have nightmares?» – «I had some: my bankruptcy, my failure … »

Thomas Jacob Hilfiger, better known as Tommy Hilfiger, 65, from Elmira, New York, is an american fashion designer. What is not described on Wikipedia: Hilfiger is entrepreneur first, the designing of fashion comes in second place. Together with business and financial partners he build his brand that primarily offers clothing in the so called college- or preppy-style (from preparatory school). 2006 Hilfiger sold his shares for 1.6 billion to a holding company; about 5 years later it resold the company to the american fashion group Philips-Van Heusen for about 3 billion. He doesn’t have any noteworthy share in the company anymore and is ambassador of the brand, meaning that he gives interviews, opens shops in important cities, et cetera; the operational chief is the Swiss national Daniel Grieder. Hilfiger is married the second time, has five children of his own plus two stepchildren; his biography «American Dreamer» was published in 2016, I recommend this book.

«You write that one of your managers was partly responsible for the company succeeding again. He was right, others, including yourself, were not for some time. You rarely read that, success mostly isn’t shared …» – «Yes, but it was like that. I have always been supported by people to get ahead. There were and there are unusually strong people in the company.» – «How does one lead employees that are better than oneself?» – «I am very confident with where I am in life – my name is on the logo, I am the creator and visionary behind the brand.» – «But how do you prevent these people from wanting your job?» – «It’s like in sports: You are a group that wants to win. Everybody is willing to do everything for it except cheating. I was the motivator and influencer of the team; I enabled the success, praised and rewarded my people.»

Tommy Hilfiger Gründer (Thomas Jacob Hilfiger)

Tommy Hilfiger (Thomas Jacob Hilfiger)«How important is luck?» – «You need luck to get big. But fortune can be followed by misfortune – we were excessively successful in America in the beginning of the [19]90s but towards the end of the decade we suffered a setback and several partners sold their shares, pulled out … But with good people one can influence luck a little.» – «When you have been in business for four decades, fortunate and less fortunate phases should be distributed evenly, shouldn’t they?» – «I hope so. And then there’s this: A successful career is associated with hard work. You never get to rest, always have to keep going. How do you perfect this or that? What do we do next?» – «Your income in 2016 will reach 33 million dollars; that means during the time we talk you earn 15 000 dollars. But the extrapolated media value of the articles I publish is approximately 100 000 francs or dollars – You are underpaid.» – «Haha, I will tell the CEO, my friend Daniel Grieder.»

Tommy Hilfiger’s favourite restaurant:

Harry’s Bar, Calle Vallaresso 1323, Venice, Italy, phone +39 (0)41 528 5777


This post is also available in: German

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