Tommy Hilfiger talks fashion with Phila. University students

Tommy Hilfiger inspects the work of Alexandra Massa (right), a senior fashion design major at the university. Fashion is about affordable luxury, he said at a Q&A session with students.
Tommy Hilfiger inspects the work of Alexandra Massa (right), a senior fashion design major at the university. Fashion is about affordable luxury, he said at a Q&A session with students. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 12, 2011

Preppy is taking a luxurious turn, thanks to silken fabrics, soft cashmeres, bolder colors, and a fitted silhouette.

That's big news coming from fashion giant Tommy Hilfiger. Hilfiger was in town Tuesday morning visiting Philadelphia University.

"Fashion is about affordable luxury," Hilfiger told a group of 900 students in a question-and-answer session. "To succeed, designers need to be affordable, wearable, accessible, and aspirational."

In May, Philadelphia University gave Hilfiger its 2011 Spirit of Design Award. He had planned to accept it at the school's annual fashion show, but he had to cancel.

Dressed in a navy blue Tommy Hilfiger fitted suit, he walked through campus with Allen E. Sirkin, a Philadelphia University graduate and president of PVH Corp., Tommy Hilfiger's parent company.

On the tour, Hilfiger recognized Philadelphia University teacher Danny Noble as the Danny Noble who presented a collection in New York during the 1980s. And he was impressed with 23-year-old senior Natalie Simmons' layered grouping of smoky gray and brown silk jersey pieces.

"These models need a good meal," Hilfiger teased, pointing to the sketches in Simmons' portfolio. "This is impressive."

Simmons blushed.

How could she not? When it comes to American fashion brands, Hilfiger, who started his billion-dollar company with just $150, stands alone.

His mens- and womenswear lines - which bear a distinctive red, white, and blue flag - became popular in the 1980s thanks to preppies and hip-hop heads. Hilfiger was among the first clothing designers to use celebrities in advertising campaigns: Britney Spears, Usher, and David Bowie all posed for him.

In an effort to stay high-fashion-relevant, Hilfiger asked Peter Som to design his Spring 2012 presentation. The collection, which debuted in New York in September, was a soft grouping of colorful caftans, A-line skirts, and bold skinny pants. It was well received.

What's next for Hilfiger?

He is planning to open a store in London. He would love to manufacture furniture. Although plans to buy New York's Clock Tower offices fell through last month, Hilfiger still talks about buying a luxury hotel.

His canvas, however, will remain preppy.

"Preppy can be old fashion. Preppy can be new fashion," Hilfiger said. "It has so many different personalities


Tommy Hilfiger talks about fashion with Elizabeth Wellington:

www.philly.com/tommy


Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704, ewellington@phillynews.com, or @ewellingtonphl on Twitter.

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