Last night Tommy Hilfiger showed the newest instalment of his Tommy Now extravaganza, where his customers, the press and celebrities all came under one roof to see what he and his collaborators (this time Lewis Hamilton) have ready in stores as of today for us to indulge in.

The nostalgia for the 90s hoodie, t-shirt and sweatpant look has played to Tommy’s advantage, given the brand’s DNA in denim and preppy streetwear, which has been co-opted by music subcultures from rap and hip hop to country. That same widespan appeal continues today and has made Tommy Hilfiger a truly global figure. 

Launching in Fall 2016 with Gigi Hadid, the brand bravely went all-in with the See Now Buy Now model, evolving their normally limited-access runway shows into public events conducted over several days. These amusement park-style experiences, intertwined with fashion, were a revelation and a fresh way to broaden their appeal.

Following from the success of the initial Gigi Hadid collection, Tommy also worked with Zendaya. And this new partnership with F1 champion Lewis Hamilton is more evidence of his ability to develop collaborations, and create clothing, founded on friendship. We sat down with Tommy, an oasis of calm amidst the bustle of pre-show prep, a few days before the show to learn about what it takes to be Tommy leading Tommy.

So Tommy, welcome back to London! Why have you decided to show at the Tate Modern Tanks?

It was available! (Laughs) No seriously, we were looking for a large enough location, an appropriate space with a cool vibe to it and it’s not as easy as you think. The Roundhouse last time was epic (having shown a Gigi collection there), so we had to follow that.

Tate Modern Tanks

Why partner with Lewis?

We’ve been working with Lewis now for 3 seasons and he is incredibly passionate about fashion. He brought a lot of ideas to us and I wanted a true collaboration so I said, “Let’s keep the DNA of the brand intact, but what do you really want to do?” and he said, “Luxury streetwear.”   So now we’ve evolved it to luxury streetwear but doing something I never expected. He wanted to do tonal clothes and then add neon details and trims but I thought, “Ok, look, that’s cool, but let’s use it sparingly,” and we did. He wanted to roll over into women’s and unisex, so I thought why don’t we do a three-way collab? I don’t think anyone has ever done a three-way collab. But it worked out well, she (musician of the moment H.E.R.), brought in her ideas and I think they gelled together really well.

We love how you pioneer these immersive experiences, but at what point do you think you’ll change it up again?

Soon! We’re already thinking about what is next because I don’t want to get caught up in the trap of looking like we looked before. I really believe that the attention span of everyone in the pop culture/ fashion world wants new and exciting and different and disruptive, so we’re thinking about what’s next.

Naomi Campbell opening the show

What do you look for in raw talent to work with?

Passion. Someone who has fresh ideas but will not be afraid to connect to our DNA. I don’t want fresh ideas that will be a disconnect from who we are. I think that we have to hold onto our DNA and it’s not difficult because it’s very evident what our DNA is. There’s a red (and white and blue!) thread throughout.

How do you try to stay relevant as a global brand, in a world where things are constantly changing?

You have to look at the future, I think you can’t look at the present or the past, because if you look at the present or the past, you’re going to be looking at the full past. And we’re thinking, where does the customer want to go and where can we go to provide the customer with what he or she does not know that they need or want yet. We’ve proven they absolutely want instant gratification But we have to think about what is next and I think that the marriage of technology, digital, social media, fashion and media is where we have to go. At the same time, we have to evolve way past fashion as a brand and there are many different opportunities to go into various businesses that are not evident today.

Could you give me an example?

Media entertainment, video games, health and wellness, hotels, residences, electronics. We tested headphones in our stores last season, people are going crazy for them.

What is relevant for today? And a lot of it is going to revolve around experiences, having something new, fresh fun and slightly familiar because if you have something that is purely innovated, something brand new, it has to be that someone else did it, it was successful and now we do it our way.

What makes you still so passionate about what you do?

I don’t really know, I just know that I want to always look at what is next without abandoning the home base, but evolving the brand. I don’t want to revolutionize the brand, I want to evolve it with new, fresh, disruptive ideas.

Shop Tommy Hilfiger below: