While the rest of the industry wrestles with the big question of whether to show collections months in advance to the press (at the risk of boring their customers) or showing them when the clothes are ready to buy (at the risk of alienating the press), for Tommy Hilfiger, the choice was a no-brainer. Ever since his business recovered from the negative effects of overexposure during his first big explosion in the 1990s, thanks to his newfound popularity in Europe, he has been in a position to do things differently.
He can make big decisions that might look risky, like forging a fashion partnership with Gigi Hadid and showing their combined collections with an extravagant production that included amusement park rides, lobster rolls, and an appearance by Taylor Swift, but that are also really no-brainers. Of the three biggest designers in New York who are choosing to change things up this season by showing their collections in season (buy-now-wear-now is the buzzword), Hilfiger has the strongest shot at making bank.
With Gigi opening his show on Friday night at the former South Street Seaport, wearing leather pants and a trim military jacket, followed by a long lineup that was filled with easy-to-digest nautical designs (repeated with a finale of twinned looks for emphasis), Hilfiger was speaking in a clear voice for consumerism. And shoppers could go to tommy.com right away to buy a Gigi nautical hat for $65 or denim sailor pants for $175. If you are a Gigi fan, this is a purchase that would be hard to resist.
For magazine editors, too, the show was great fun, and hardly spoiled at all by the fact that many of us had the chance to preview the Gigi collaboration months ago. Frankly, it was the smartest collection Tommy has shown in years, as he riffed upon and revisited the oversize sweatshirt trend with versions in plush velour bearing his signature flag logo ($290). I’d buy that. Of course, there’s another risk, that these early adapters will ruin things for everyone. They’re all getting such great coverage that next season, more designers are likely to follow their example, and it’s possible that we’ll all get bored of all this change.
Then again, not many designers have the resources to pull this off. Before his in-season shopping show, Tom Ford acknowledged that his dinner theater at the former Four Season came with a price tag of millions of dollars. Hilfiger’s show undoubtedly was expensive. And our third example, Thakoon Panichgul, who restructured his fantastic Thakoon collection this season under a similar model, undoubtedly did not skimp with a factory rooftop production under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge that included some of the most fantastic styling of sweaters into scarves, shawls, and skirts, that I have seen from him in years.
When Panichgul started his collection more than a decade ago, he was an overnight sensation, and likely suffered for it, since this industry was then not well-equipped for supporting young talent. Just like consumers, the press grew restless and moved on to the next rising star. Now he’s back on his own terms, selling directly to the consumers who loved him in the first place, with some of the looks available now at thakoon.com. A buffalo plaid bouclé coat for $625 and matching skirt for $325, for example, could be had that very night, and I’m pretty sure they were.