AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Since its launch in 1985, the Tommy Hilfiger brand has achieved global renown as a pioneer of American preppy style with a twist. Present on five continents, in 2015 the brand generated $6.5 billon in retail sales through its extensive distribution network, spanning 115 countries. In 2010, the Tommy Hilfiger business was acquired by PVH Corp., with the brand’s eponymous founder staying on as principal designer, re-energising its creative momentum and ushering in a new era of innovation at the company.
That commitment to innovation is best exemplified by the company’s willingness to overhaul its go-to-market model, radically reducing its lead-time to market, which necessitated the involvement of every single associate and partner across the globe. Today, the success of that initiative, along with others including a fully digitised show room and an incubator team for new ideas, has created a virtuous cycle — where the increased profits are channeled directly back in to innovation, placing Tommy Hilfiger firmly back at the forefront of the fashion industry.
What has driven Tommy Hilfiger’s recent momentum?
TH: Our people. The exciting, innovative and revolutionary ideas that we have implemented in recent years have all come from within our organisation. I am really proud of our people and our teams for driving our company’s entrepreneurial spirit in their work every day.
DG: I agree. The brand’s momentum stems from the fact that every associate at Tommy Hilfiger understands that to truly disrupt and innovate within our industry we have to be willing to reinvent every aspect of the business each and every day. It is about being open to doing things differently. That entrepreneurial spirit and passion for innovation is fundamental to our business. Everything we do today, we have to ask ourselves, is this still the right way for tomorrow? We have to react to a world that is moving faster and faster. As I have always said, the biggest risk is to take no risk at all.
How would you define the DNA of the Tommy Hilfiger brand today?
DG: In 2014 we embedded our rolling vision 2020+, which is based on three pillars. One is being consumer-centric, the second adaptable to change and the third is placing product as king. But supporting this is our passion for innovation — we constantly invest in it and we are not hesitant to test innovative initiatives in the market. We view it as a consistent process that we must really get behind; we know that our ability to stay at the forefront of our industry will come through our commitment to innovation. We are lucky because due to the innovative processes that we have already invested in, especially in product, we have sold more and therefore the innovation is paying for itself – and more! We are always improving and getting bigger. It is a virtuous cycle.
How has the shift to fashion immediacy changed the company’s working practices?
DG: When we started “See Now, Buy Now” we didn’t know whether it would all work out. It was initially only one process, reducing our time to market for a collection. But to do that we have to bring in all of our partners, build a way of showing the collection digitally and create ways to buy it digitally (which is why we created the digital wall and digital show room). In the end, the whole company was involved in this one project. It turned out to be an extremely positive business opportunity, that showed us how efficiently we can work as a global team, and how impactful the results can be. We have since launched our biggest innovation initiative dubbed ‘Speed 360’, a project through which we continue to make our internal processes faster and more efficient. That requires innovation from every aspect of the business — not just from design, but from every angle: from development, to sourcing and production, to warehouse and distribution.
How do you empower your employees to consistently innovate and reinvent?
DG: In terms of processes, we have fortified what was already an extremely open culture that encourages everyone from every department to bring ideas to the table. I call it the ‘three Ds’: Discuss, Decide and Deliver. We want to hear new ideas, we want to discuss them and then we want to deliver on them. Following that, we have created innovation testers, where a team that is able to create the budget to test initiatives in the market can try it, no matter what it is for or whom it comes from. That is why our own teams and associates are so important to us. We need people who are open minded and hungry for that newness.
What talent needs currently exist?
DG: If applicants are truly seeking a, fast-paced and exciting environment, and are equipped with an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for innovation, as well as embracing a spirit of inclusivity and diversity we can use the right kind of talent in every part of our business.
TH: I am so excited by the brand today. Our pioneering spirit and focus on the consumer is taking us into really interesting areas, from leading the industry in the “See Now, Buy Now” runway format, to experimenting with digital technology in our products and the way we work. I always believe that the best is yet to come, and this is true now more than ever. These are very exciting times.