September 15, 2015

Each season, designer Tommy Hilfiger prides himself on having one of the most elaborate set designs at New York Fashion Week, which makes a ticket to his show pretty covetable. One season he orchestrated a makeshift ski lodge (replete with faux snow), and another season had a set that boasted around 150,000 flowers. His spring/summer 2016 show proved to be no different—it was as dynamic and as wild as seasons past. 

Hilfiger drew inspiration from Mustique Island, a slice of paradise situated in the West Indies, and plucked a celeb-favorite landmark—Basil's Bar—to replicate for his show. "Our inspiration came from the laidback island lifestyle, with relaxed Caribbean influences and an effortlessly sophisticated feel," Hilfiger tells InStyle. "This season's set is one of our most impressive yet—I wanted to recreate the look and feel of Mustique, where we have a family home." 

To do this, he tapped the geniusness that is Randall Peacock, a set designer who's been working with Hilfiger for 15 years. The goal was to conjure up the same emotion you feel on the beach at sunset. 

"When you see the sun going down, with the light reflected against the water, it's transporting," Peacock says. "It's about fantasy. Even though this (the runway set) is artificial, the effect is real, and that actually makes it feel authentic. It's an authentic inauthentic experience." 

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The set was four to five months in the making and it involved managing expectations (as in being able to deliver an idea that's realistic), overcoming tricky elements (like water and palm trees), conducting research, making renderings, and testing colors. Peacock names water as the trickiest, though. "That's 20,000 gallons of water, so the challenge was to not have it leak out onto the floor, especially since we're standing on a basketball court," he says. "It has to be absolutely flawless in its installation."

And it was all well worth it because the show went off without a hitch. "We create our shows to be encompassing experiences that reflect and enhance the collection inspiration," Hilfiger says. "Guests come from all over the world to watch—and I want to give them a show." 

Watch the 30-second clip, above, to see the making of the set. And read below for fun trivia about the set and the designs.

THE SET

  • 20,000 gallons of water was used.
  • There was enough sand to cover 7,000 square feet.
  • 100 customized beer bottles were made as props for the Basil's Bar replica (each one was slapped with the Tommy Hilfiger label).
  • The props, including the fruit crates, fishing nets, ropes, shells, floats, anchors, and boat) were all real objects, and many, vintage. Much of it was hand-stenciled with the Tommy show colors. 
  • The dinghy was reclaimed and scenic-painted.
  • The sky backdrop was hand-painted in 1968 by old-school Hollywood artists.
  • 14 palm trees were transported from Florida. They were hybrids with faux resin bases and real palm fronds.

THE COLLECTION

  • The Caribbean floral print features hidden reptiles and insects.
  • The animal motifs (the monkey and lion) were inspired by a photo of Mick Jagger in Mustique.
  • The belts were inspired by Caribbean police officers.
  • The jewelry was handmade by a design team that combined elements collected from all over the world.
  • The crochet was handmade for the show.

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