‘Dressing up is back’: Tommy Hilfiger lauds luxury at New York fashion week

Designer returns for first show after two-year absence with new take on preppy and move away from streetwear

“Luxury is the word on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Everyone knows what luxury looks like now, and everyone wants it. But luxury is unreachable for most people. If I can sell an affordable version of luxury, that’s a great position for our business.”

Tommy Hilfiger has returned to New York fashion week after a two-year absence, riding a wave of “quiet luxury” fashion and on a hunch that “dressing up is back. We are moving away from streetwear into a more polished look. It’s in the air – I can feel it,” he says.

Billed as “a New York moment”, the show was a coming of age for a brand that has long aligned itself with popular culture and youth, through close ties with hip-hop and sport. Invitations borrowing the typeface and layout of a New Yorker magazine cover summoned guests to a Friday night at the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station, a Manhattan institution hosting the first catwalk show of its 110-year history.

Trays of martinis and old fashioneds made for a cocktail party atmosphere. At his office the morning after the show, Hilfiger recalled his pre-show jitters. “I was thinking, are they ever going to sit down? How are we going to start this show?”

Ralph Lauren is sitting out the season, Calvin Klein went dark as a catwalk name five years ago, and Marc Jacobs has taken to staging shows outside the fashion week timetable. This presents an opportunity for Hilfiger to claim a headlining spot in American fashion, in the city where he started his brand in 1985. He seized it with pedal-to-the-metal exuberance, ending the show with a beaming victory lap dressed in a varsity jacket and gleaming white trainers.

Hilfiger knows how to distill the American dream into a memorable image. Plenty of New York designers make nice clothes, but only Tommy Hilfiger throws the kind of party where the first sight on entry is guest Sylvester Stallone, being served french fries (in a canapé-sized silver cone) and ketchup.

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