Ask any cool girl in the late '90s sitting at the back of classroom to name her signature scent and she'd probably say now-iconic Tommy Girl. Ever since its launch in 1996, we practically bathed in the honeysuckle and citrus blend, not yet knowing that the fragrance ($40; tommyhilfiger.com) would end up defining an entire generation. "I was hopeful it was going to do that!" the designer told us at the Fragrance Foundation Awards in New York City this week. Of course, he got by with a little help from his friends. "Evelyn Lauder, who is the wife of Leonard Lauder of Estée Lauder and is no longer with us, she really, really helped me do that," he said. "We had created the fragrance and we were going back and forth. I was like, 'What should we call this?' and she said—'What do you mean? We should call it Tommy Girl!'" The rest, as they say, is history.
Though Tommy Girl is nostalgic for most of us, a very different scent jogs Hilfiger's own memory, taking him back to a time long before his empire came to be. "The first scent I ever wore was English Leather. I wore it the first time I ever made out with a girl," he adds. "I was 12, and I was wearing English Leather, and I thought—'It worked!' It was very cool."