Tommy Hilfiger, American (1951 - )
Thomas Jacob Hilfiger (born March 24, 1951) is an American fashion designer and founder of the premium lifestyle brand Tommy Hilfiger Corporation.
Hilfiger was born in Elmira, New York. The second of nine children of a jeweler and an Irish-American nurse, he grew up in a German-Swiss/Irish-American family. Hilfiger also claims direct descendence from the Scottish poet Robert Burns. His parents originally intended for him to be an engineer.
He attended the Elmira Free Academy for high school. He also attended GST BOCES Bush Campus in Elmira, New York for machine shop trades.
Rather than furthering his education, he started to work in retail at the age of 18. Hilfiger would go to New York City to buy jeans and bell-bottom pants, which he customized and resold at Brown's, a local downtown Elmira store.
He later opened his own store, named The People's Place, around the block in downtown Elmira. Over the years, a number of stores closed in downtown Elmira as shopping traffic shifted to the new Arnot Mall in Horseheads, New York. After seven years, The People's Place went bankrupt, when Hilfiger was 25. The site of the original store has since been demolished to make room for First Arena, home of the Elmira Jackals Hockey team.
After turning to the design of clothing by designing for the rest of his stores in upstate New York, Hilfiger moved to New York City with his wife Susie. Although he was offered design assistant positions with designers Calvin Klein and Perry Ellis, he turned down the offers despite the fact he was broke.
In 1984, he founded the Tommy Hilfiger Corporation, (NYSE:TOM), with support from The Murjani Group, which went public in 1992, introducing his signature menswear collection. By 2004 the company had 5,400 employees and revenues in excess of $1.8 billion. Hilfiger was named Menswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1995.
In 1998, Hilfiger gave singer Aaliyah her endorsement deal, in which he honored her in his Summer 1998 fashion show in Jamaica.
In 2005, a CBS TV reality show called The Cut tracked the progress of sixteen contestants as they competed for a design job with Hilfiger in similar fashion to Donald Trump's The Apprentice. In the end Hilfiger chose Chris Cortez.
Largely due to declining sales, in 2006, Tommy Hilfiger sold his company for $1.6 billion, or $16.80 a share, to Apax Partners, a private investment company.
In March 2010, Phillips-Van Heusen, owner of Calvin Klein, bought the Tommy Hilfiger Corporation for $3 billion.
In March 2012, Hilfiger was announced as the fashion consultant on American Idol.