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LOS ANGELES: “Carine Roitfeld once told me… If you don’t know what to wear to a party, wear jeans, a t-shirt and heels,” Gigi Hadid tells GRAZIA Australia. “Works every time.” Such a moment was today’s TommyXGigi Spring/Summer 2017 show, controversially uprooted from the traditional Fashion Week stable in New York to Venice Beach; a world first and an ode to the lifestyle brand’s playful and easy-going Southern Californian style. The show was also the second to adhere to Hilfiger’s wildly successful See-Now-Buy-Now model.

Backstage, it’s more of a See-Me-Now type of model running about. The car park of the Erwin Hotel on Pacific Ave in Venice has been converted into a makeshift backstage dressing room. Devon Windsor is busy chatting – hair clip in place – while Hailey Baldwin’s makeup artist has her work cut out for her as the model continues to accept photo requests from prying journalists. Amongst the organised ruckus though is Tommy Hilfiger, calm and sitting in a director’s chair against a pale blue wall in a single car space in the corner. His composed demeanour is contrasted to his unbuttoned and untucked white collar and casual sneakers. Catching him for a chat, we asked how he accounts for the brand’s rapid resurgence. Is it a case of – after 20 years – what goes around comes around? Or is his fashion-meets-entertainment spectacle achieving brand awareness by speaking to a new generation? “I think it’s a lot of different things,” he says, his voice quiet. “I think it has to do with the See-Now-Buy-Now element, it has to do with social media, it has to do with the clothes we’re designing which are very relevant for today, they’re digestible, they’re affordable and we also have an iconic heritage we’re celebrating.”

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That heritage was celebrated at 5pm on a foggy February 8. As Hadid arrived on the runway – a cemented pathway amongst amusement rides, graffiti artists, girls on stilts, rollerbladers, acrobats, fire throwers and local food trucks – the 3000-strong crowd (2000 consumer guests : 1000 fashion professionals) unreservedly lost all ability to pick their jaws up from the “TommyLand” floor. The 21-year-old model’s magnetic energy as she raised her arms to signal the audience to get (even more) excited was a leaf straight out of Adriana Lima’s Victoria’s Secret runway guide and her hip-swaying bounce surely from Gisele’s. In fact, with the models – who included sister Bella Hadid, Sara Sampaio, Romee Stridj, Joan Smalls and Alanna Arrington – all flying a “Tommy Air” chartered flight to Venice Beach on a rainy Tuesday night, the hysteria and spectacle in the lead-up to Hilfiger’s show certainly rivalled that of December’s VS Fashion Show in Paris. Even airport chauffeurs and hotel concierge desks for media guests have all been remodelled and branded in navy, red and yellow Tommy love. A personalised note from the man himself reading “Jessica, Welcome to LA, XOXO Tommy” accompanied a huge bag full of swimwear, travel essentials, and new season sweaters.

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With Hadid, you just don’t know where to look. Your eyes dash between the arched eyebrows, the pillowy pout, that mane of bronde hair, the abs, the abs, the abs…Oh, and her mum, Yolanda, who was spotted ordering up at the churros van. Thankfully, the runway was so long it took each model three minutes to circulate it giving audiences enough time to examine every inch of the supermodel (or if that’s not enough, Hadid was immortalised as a Hilfiger-wearing roller-blading Barbie doll just yesterday).

The second collaborative collection between Hilfiger and Hadid saw sun-drenched, classic, nostalgic-styled TF hit the runway; love-worn 60s and 70s-inspired pieces celebrating liberation and that carefree West Coast spirit in the modern day. Sunny yellows mixed with football stripes and washed denim patchworks were sidelined in favour of that deep, signature Tommy red and embellished with badges and patches. Inspired by the sunshine state, these latter items were presented best in another all-American-girl bomber. Or was it the red and white striped one-piece bathing suit? Or even the red and white slogan tee that read “Better Together”, a sure nod to America’s current political landscape. “Obviously this is a bigger show with more people [than previous shows] but we like the idea that it is unique, disruptive, it’s about instant gratification with See-Now-Buy-Now, it’s about an experience and it’s about really celebrating the fact that we are a very democratic brand,” says Hilfiger with a proud little smile. With this sentiment, each guest was gifted a white bandana as the CDFA announced just this week it was partnering with Planned Parenthood and raising awareness for the organisation during Fashion Week. The initiative, called #TiedTogether, encourages the industry to show their support and inclusivity for all people amidst Trump’s outlandish changes to legislation.

“I guess my first inspiration was the energy of a Californian summer, for the colour palette especially,” says Hadid. “Then, I did pieces that would fit into my spring and summer days. I wanted them to be easy to style on-the-go.”

“I think getting closer and closer to the design team with each meeting has made for a really fun and free spirited creative environment,” she continued. “I learned the most about time management after my second collection because I could compare to what I did differently to the first season.”

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The best part about all of this? You (yes, even you in Australia) can shop this collection from Friday February 10 at 9am from Myer, David Jones and Tommy Hilfiger retail stores. Hilfiger just has one request of GRAZIA readers when they do buy: “#TommyNow” he says, smiling. “Make sure you hashtag!”

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Lady Gaga front row at the Tommy Hilfiger SS17 show on Venice Beach
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Fergie performed post show at the Tommy Hilfiger SS17 show on Venice Beach
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Hilfiger is known for taking his Fashion Week spectacles to daring, never-before heights. Every show audaciously seems to one-up the last. In the recent past, we’ve seen the designer ship truckloads of artificial snow into Park Avenue Armory (Hello his après-ski-themed Fall 2014 collection). He kicked multiple goals (although some critics claim no touchdown) when a football field was transformed into a runway to showcase his Fall 2015 show. Perhaps though the most spectacular of them all was the dramatic staging of his Fall 2016 collection; an orchestrated carnival – complete with a giant Ferris wheel – along the South Street Seaport pier in Lower Manhattan in New York City. “The fusion of fashion and entertainment is very us, but now we’re not just dating that idea, so to speak – we’re married to it,” said Hilfiger at the time. 

By doing so, the 65-year-old disrupted the traditional institution that is Fashion Week by not only being the first designer to enlist a model to take a serious hand in designing a capsule collection (and who other than Gigi Hadid?) but embracing the See-Now-Buy model. All looks, like this collection, were immediately shoppable online, in stores and via retail partners – and as Tommy Pier was garnering in excess of two billion social impressions, fashion became a spectacle for even the more modest consumer. They didn’t need to wait months to buy what Hadid, Taylor Hill or Hailey Baldwin were wearing – it was there, right then at the click of a button. While New York reportedly “enthusiastically embraced” the buy-it-off-the-runway concept, some European labels snubbed the idea. 

For the first time in forever, the fashion media took a backseat to the young millennial buyer.

“When [Hadid] hit the runway, the fans went crazy, they wanted to buy everything she was wearing, and Avery Baker, our CMO, and I talked at length about how we could use Gigi not just for being a model, because that is not enough in this day and age,” explained Hilfiger in September. “We wanted to take it much further; we wanted something that was a breakthrough, disruptive.”

The show wasn’t about the designs, it was about the theatrics. It was about the millennial model fronting it. It was about the sea of iPhones capturing the moments and looks and sharing them to the world. And it was about the double-digit growth in sales and a 900% website traffic increase 48 hours post-show, a hangover of the good kind. 70% of those visitors were new to the site with the highest gains from America, Japan and China. Styles were selling out within 24 hours because, well, it was digestible, relatable all-American fashion for a new generation. 

There was and isn’t no unwearable full facial embellishment a la Givenchy Spring/Summer 2014 or the gild-like (or was it blade-like?) designs of Iris Van Herpen Spring 2017 show or basically anything from any season of Commes Des Garçons. As simple as Hilfiger’s creative may be, the show reports had more to do with Taylor Swift’s attendance than the tomboy swagger walking the pier. The lines weren’t necessarily winning over critics but its execution made the clothes become highly covetable. And it truly was genius. 

“It’s classic and relatable,” explains Gigi. “I think anyone can wear it and mix it with different classic/vintage pieces to get a fun, cool, easy summer look.” 

“Gigi was much more involved in the design room this time around in the sense that we really wanted to do a Southern Californian type of line,” says Hilfiger. “And Gigi is the epitome of the Southern Californian girl. She understands it very well; it’s casual, its sporty, it’s comfy, it’s cool and it has all the elements that Gigi is about.”

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This year – with an entire beach to play with – that extra layer of fanfare and frivolity was added. Uprooting a NYFW show to the other side of the country is a massive deal.

To Hilfiger though, it’s not about editorial reviews in magazines. To him, social media is the new newsstand.

Today’s approach involved doubling the scale of last season’s (or is that quadrupling?) by adding even more social media layers to drum up maximum reach. The tactic was four-fold: 1. See-Now-Buy-Now would continue and so too would leveraging from collaborating with Gigi Hadid as a “designer”. 2. Influencers like One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson’s ex-girlfriend Eleanor Calder AKA The Trend Pear (with 3.3 million followers and counting) were invited to customise the collection with mini badges. So too was Naomi Davis (The Rockstar Diaries) and Camille Charriére (Over the Rainbow). 3. Then, Hilfiger/Hadid fans could vote on their favourite designs via Instagram. The ones with the most likes would appear in the show; a hoodie, a bomber, a polo shirt and a pair of jeans. By doing so, the consumer became part of the design process, could see it’s evolution on social media and buy that pair of jeans straight away while they were front of mind. 4. Interestingly, this year, you can buy the collection using TMY.GRL, a branded bot who helps you shop the range from Facebook Messenger. Hilfiger also has launched a Tommyland image-recognition app where you can hold your phone up to a model on the runway or a picture in a magazine or a poster at a bus-stop and the app will identify the item and direct you to it at tommy.com.

Elaborate, disruptive, clever and forever innovative. And even if these dark clouds above TommyLand tonight decide to storm, there’s no raining on Hilfiger’s fashion-meets-entertainment parade. Rumour has it, the designer plans to take it global too. Tommy, Thanks for the spectacle, XOXO Jessica. Now, where did I put my new patchwork jeans?

 

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thoughts?