Inclusivity is more than just a buzzword – it should be an intrinsic way of doing business. Here, Halima Aden speaks to Tommy Hilfiger to find out how the pioneering designer is pushing this vital agenda forward.
Beyond the lush advertising campaigns and social media posts of the fashion world, many brands are quietly working behind the scenes to improve inclusivity and diversity not only for their own companies, but for the industry as a whole. One such visionary is Tommy Hilfiger, who is aiming not only to become more sustainable and fully circular, but also to be a brand where everyone is welcome and there is opportunity for all. I spoke to Tommy about his history and the importance of visibility and mentorship in fashion and business.
Halima Aden: Can you please give us a brief description of the Make It Possible program?
Tommy Hilfiger: Make It Possible is the continuation of our 35-year journey to make a positive impact in the world. It’s a bold sustainability program reinforcing our commitment to creating fashion that wastes nothing and welcomes all. It’s ambitious but with collaboration and partnership, we are determined to reach the 24 initial targets by 2030.
HA: The theme of the program is “Wastes Nothing and Welcomes All.” What does that message mean to you?
TH: I started this brand in 1985 and have always been committed to staying optimistic and working hard to create a better future in any way I can. For me, this doesn’t just mean becoming more environmentally sustainable, but also socially. The fashion industry is long overdue much needed change, and our Make it Possible vision is one way we want to drive it.
HA: One of the key points to the program is that everyone is welcome. What are some of the steps you are working on to ensure that’s the case?
TH: “Everyone welcome” means having inclusive product and shopping experiences at the heart of the brand. Some of the steps we’re taking include our Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive range for both kids and adults, and our “Style for All” philosophy, which has included unisex styling, our first hijab design, and our expanded curve sizing. We are also turning to innovation to create more inclusive experiences, like our Alexa-assisted voice-directed online shopping.
HA: Another key point is opportunity for all. What does that look like at Tommy Hilfiger?
TH: We want to become a more informed organization that creates a strong sense of belonging. From designer to factory worker, everyone in our business deserves to feel valued, supported, and have their voice heard. There are a few internal programs being developed to support this, which I hope we can share soon!
HA: Recently, Tommy Hilfiger launched the People’s Place Program to advance the representation of black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities within the fashion and creative industries. Can you share a bit about that?
TH: At 18, I created the original People’s Place as a dedicated space for people from all walks of life to come together to enjoy art, music, fashion, and pop culture. Shaped by the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the original store fostered an exchange of ideas, encouraged authentic self-expression, and challenged social norms. It is in this spirit that the People’s Place Program has been founded, with the aim to advance the representation of BIPOC within the fashion and creative industries. To achieve this, we will be annually committing a minimum of US $5 million for the next three years and focusing on partnerships, career access, and industry leadership that advance this mission.
HA: You’ve been outspoken in your support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Can you share some of the changes you’ve made within the company with regards to that?
TH: So many steps have already been taken to create more opportunities and platforms for all associates to listen and be heard. We have also rolled out mandatory “unconscious bias” training to all associates, provided resources to develop a deeper understanding of systemic racism, and launched an educational event series on racial justice. But there is always more to be done, and we won’t stop until our organization, and our industry, is truly open, inclusive, and equal.
HA: One of the things I most admire about you is your commitment to helping the world’s most vulnerable children, as the mission resonates so personally with me. I was thrilled to attend and see you recognized and honored at the Save the Children event last year. Can you share what your hope is and how you continue to work to provide opportunities to our future leaders?
TH: Since I received such incredible advice early on in my career, I have stayed passionate about mentoring future fashion designers and industry leaders. We have a responsibility to use our platform to advance upcoming talent across all creative mediums. And by building partnerships, we are providing the next generation of leaders with resources, advice, connections, and support.
HA: One of the highlights of my career was wearing a custom Tommy Hilfiger burkini in the pages of Sports Illustrated Swim. What does it mean to you to be highlighting a piece that is geared towards not only Muslim women, but modest dressing women in general?
TH: It was such an honor to work with you and Sports Illustrated on this statement-making moment. When I began designing at 18, my philosophy was to start with the consumer: how they wanted to dress, what they thought was cool, what they needed. This approach is even more important today so we can keep expanding our understanding of what makes beautiful, classic, exciting fashion that is accessible to and inclusive of everyone.
HA: Any final thoughts or a message you would like to share with all of your fans in the Middle East?
TH: I have always admired the elegance of Middle Eastern fashion. I love to see the unique twist our fans across the region put on our collections. It really inspires me to experiment with new approaches.
Originally published in the December 2020 Issue of Vogue Arabia