Blog | Robert Davis 10.12.17

Things are spectacular in Tommy World

Twenty years ago I worked on a project that required me to spend a glorious week in Paris attending haute couture shows. They were an amazing spectacle – the Paco Rabanne show was like a trip to another planet. Fast forwarding to this year’s fall fashion season, the shows are still spectacular. But I got to wondering – are they great brand experiences?

The big buzz right now at global fashion weeks is “see it now, buy it now.” The ability to buy off the runway was a significant innovation two years ago, but with the speed of change in fashion, it’s a commodity now – and from what I hear, it’s not clear the results are worth the effort. The shows go on doing what they do, packing the front rows with celebs paid to show up, and limiting the number of tickets so only the lucky few can see things live while the rest of us settle for social media coverage. They’re all about the spectacle, and they reinforce a time-proven generic high fashion brand formula: creativity + celebrity + scarcity = brand as an unattainable focus of lust and longing

But wait – aren’t fashion weeks really about ready to wear? You know, the clothes we mere consumers can actually buy and wear to work or out on the occasional Date Night?

Tommy Hilfiger shakes things up

Seems like the one brand taking advantage of the real opportunity in all this is Tommy Hilfiger. Over the past several seasons, Tommy Hilfiger’s spectacular shows (or are they showy spectaculars?) demonstrate some solid thinking about how great brand experiences can deliver for the business.


Here’s an example: Tommy Pier. For the past several years, Tommy Hilfiger hasn’t just had a “show” – they’ve built a carnival experience that takes the brand beyond the runway and into an all-American experience we can all participate in. Sure, the runway shows still have celebrities in the front row, but they’re also held in larger venues and this fall, half the tickets were reserved for regular consumers who belong to the Tommy Hilfiger loyalty program. And the day after the show, Tommy Pier is open to everyone and anyone with an interest in Tommy Hilfiger, come one come all. 


Everyone’s welcome in Tommy’s world

Inviting everyone into the experience is core to Hilfiger’s strategy. “[We’re] breaking all the rules and disrupting the fashion industry with new authentic experiences for consumers around the world,” said Tommy Hilfiger, as reported by Rachel Arthur, writing for Forbes. “As we continue our leadership role in democratizing the runway, we are driven by our passion to come up with new all-inclusive ways to involve and empower consumers, male and female, to take part in these unique experiences.” 

Image: Retail Innovation

In addition to making the show and Tommy Pier fully shoppable, custom AI bots offer the brand’s styling advice at scale, and augmented reality tools make the shows special for any consumer with a smartphone who can’t attend.

Image: Rachel Arthur

Spectacular + smart = great brand experience 

Tommy Hilfiger’s shows and events are potentially more over the top than usual for an industry that pretty much coined the phrase. But in a business actively holding everyday customers at arm’s length from their biggest brand experiences, inviting your real, everyday customer into your brand’s biggest party is just crazy smart. It worked for Universal Studios, and it looks to be working for Tommy Hilfiger, too. We all live in Tommy’s world now.

Full disclosure: From kindergarten through 3rd grade, I lived around the corner from the Hilfiger family. I have a vivid memory of being punished by my parents when I mashed up his little brother’s last name with a profanity not to be spoken aloud in front of adults. And to be completely clear, I most certainly did not receive a buttery soft, black, size 38 Rock n’ Roll Tailored Collection Leather Jacket as compensation for this post… yet.

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