Thomas Jacob Hilfiger (born March 24, 1951) is an American fashion designer and founder of Tommy Hilfiger Corporation.
After starting his career by co-founding a chain of jeans/fashion stores called People’s Place in upstate New York in the 1970s, he began designing preppy clothing for his own eponymous menswear line in the 1980s. The company later expanded into women’s clothing and various luxury items such as perfumes and went public in 1992.
Hilfiger’s collections are often influenced by the fashion of music subcultures and marketed in connection with the music industry, with celebrities such as American R&B artist Aaliyah in the 1990s. In 2005, contestants in the CBS reality show The Cut competed for a design job with Hilfiger in a similar fashion to The Apprentice. In 2006, Hilfiger sold his company for $1.6 billion to Apax Partners, who next sold it in 2010 to Phillips-Van Heusen for $3 billion. He remains the company’s principal designer, leading the design teams and overseeing the entire creative process. In 2012, Hilfiger was awarded the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
The following is a selected list of awards and recognitions for Tommy Hilfiger:
- 1995: Council of Fashion Designers of America – Menswear Designer of the Year
- 1997: FiFi Awards – Men’s Fragrance of the Year – Luxe, for the fragrance “Tommy”
- 1998: Parsons School of Design – Designer of the Year Award
- 1998: GQ Magazine – Designer of the Year for ‘Men of the Year’ issue
- 2000: FiFi Awards – Best Marketing Innovation of the Year, for Toiletries for Tommy’s (American running series)
- 2002: GQ Germany – International Designer of the Year
- 2002: Drug Abuse Resistance Education – Future of America Award, for philanthropic efforts for American youth
- 2006: GQ Spain – Designer of the Year
- 2006: Harvard Foundation – Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian of the Year
- 2006: We Are Family Foundation – Visionary Award
- 2007: Hispanic Federation – Individual Achievement Award
- 2008: Women’s Wear Daily – No. 1 Designer and No. 16 Brand in annual “100 List”
- 2009: UNESCO – UNESCO Support Award, for philanthropic efforts
- 2009: Marie Claire Magazine – Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2010: Pratt Institute – Legends Award
- 2012: Council of Fashion Designers of America – Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Anna Wintour
- 2015: Race To Erase MS – honored for commitment to finding a cure for MS
Jessica Stam wears Tommy Hilfiger on the runway in 2008
Hilfiger was born on March 24, 1951, in Elmira, New York, the second of nine children. Both of his parents were practicing Catholics. His father Richard was a watchmaker of German-Swiss descent and his mother Virginia (née Gerrity) was a nurse of Irish descent. Hilfiger also claims direct descent from Gilbert Burns brother of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Hilfiger has described his upbringing as very happy. He credits his parents with instilling a good work ethic and compassion for others. Hilfiger had an early interest in sports, fashion, and the music industry, a trend that ran in his family. One of his brothers, Andy Hilfiger, went on to work as a musician and designer, while Hilfiger’s other brother Billy Hilfiger would join King Flux as a guitarist.
In 1976 Hilfiger met Susan Cirona, an employee at the People’s Place in Ithaca; they married in 1980. Together they had four children: one son and three daughters. In 2003 Hilfiger’s daughter Ally was part of the MTV reality series Rich Girls. His son, Richard (“Ricky Hil”), is a musician. The Hilfigers divorced in 2000.
On December 12, 2008, Hilfiger married his second wife, Dee Ocleppo; the couple had a son in 2009.