NEW YORK, United States — The fashion industry's shift towards direct-to-consumer fashion events shows no sign of abating. Tommy Hilfiger, the PVH Corp-owned American fashion brand with annual sales of near $7 billion, is the latest of the industry’s major players to announce a shift in its operating model to offer consumers 'fashion immediacy,' synchronising runway shows with retail drops starting in September 2016, when Hilfiger will show its TommyXGigi capsule collection, created in close collaboration with Instagram it-girl Gigi Hadid. Immediately after the event, the collection will be available to buy via the company’s own retail stores and e-commerce, as well as its wholesale partners.
The presentation itself — which the company promises will go beyond a traditional runway show — will air on a “global multi-media broadcast network" and will be targeted at consumers and press. Over the next six months, Hadid will tease the collaboration via her social media channels, offering a sneak peek of the goods to her 13.1 million Instagram followers — more than the follower counts of the American editions of Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar combined. “It’s like releasing an album,” Hilfiger told BoF, in an exclusive interview, revealing the new strategy. “There are leaks, but the full collection won’t be exposed by any means.”
“For over 15 years we’ve been creating a fusion between entertainment and fashion,” the designer continued. “This gives us the perfect platform to expand upon that. We've used the acronym FAME before: Fashion, Art, Music, Entertainment. I think whatever we do from a marketing aspect has to be entertaining and exciting. Content is really key."
The September 2016 show will also feature select items from Tommy Hilfiger’s Autumn 2016 collection, which is set to be shown to press, buyers and other industry insiders at 11am on Monday, 15 February, as part of the traditional NYFW calendar. But the move to align runway and retail will take full effect in February 2017, when the brand's Spring 2017 collection will be revealed and made immediately available to purchase, no small undertaking for a brand with over 20,000 points of sale, more than 1,500 stores and distribution in 115-plus countries.
“As one of the world’s most recognised American lifestyle brands and most visible shows at NYFW, we have a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in moving the runway closer to the consumer,” said Daniel Grieder, chief executive officer for Tommy Hilfiger in a statement. “In line with our vision to become more consumer centric, it’s important that we channel the incredible visibility and engagement that our shows generate into the moment when the product launches. This is the next step in our journey to shorten the development cycle and balance our approach to meet the diverse needs of consumers, buyers and media. We are committed to working in a new way with our business partners and the industry to achieve this goal.”
Considering the lead times faced by wholesalers and print media outlets, Hilfiger will also show its Spring 2017 collection privately to buyers and editors in September 2016. "As our wholesale partners' calendars evolve, we will do it together," said Avery Baker, the company’s chief marketing and brand officer. "We have not asked them to change their buying cycle. We've accommodated them. So it's a win-win. When the collection is on the floor, there is going to be an incredible amount of excitement that normally happens six months earlier."
While Hilfiger's runway collection is sold primarily through directly-owned stores and department store shop-in-shops, 60 percent of the company’s overall sales come from wholesale. “That’s the tension,” continued Baker. “It’s an evolution towards shortening the whole development time for everything. In the initial phase, we’re still driven by the calendar of our sale partners and when they need to buy. We recognise that you can't go from here to there over night. We will still operate, at least in the next one to two seasons, as it needs to be run for [wholesale partners]. But for the Hilfiger Collection there's the ability to be a bit more nimble and agile because that piece of our business is primarily direct-to-consumer."
In coming cycles, Tommy Hilfiger also plans to embrace "seasonless" collections. "It’s important to take seasonality into consideration in a bigger way,” said the designer. “We have a very big business in South America, Central America, all over Asia. So we have to be very conscious of it. We’re probably more trans-seasonal than most brands, but I think it’s something that we need to be very focused on in the future." Additionally, the company will begin to show its men's and women's collections together in integrated runway shows at some point down the road. "It’s evolving toward that,” said Hilfiger. In 2014, the company’s revenues were split 40/60 between women’s and men’s.
As for whether Hilfiger's new strategy was influenced by similar announcements made by Burberry, Tom Ford and others in recent days, the designer said: "It's been the conversation for a very long time. We want to be at the forefront. There are others announcing it now, but we're doing it in a different way."
Editor’s note: This article was revised on 12 February 2016. A previous version of the article misstated the split of menswear and womenswear in the Tommy Hilfiger business. Men's and women's collections represent 60 percent and 40 percent of the business, respectively.