Tommy Hilfiger - Biography

"I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to build a branch of clothing around my own attitude and lifestyle," fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger said of his first signature line of clothing, which he unveiled in 1985

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The second of nine children, Thomas Jacob Hilfiger was born in the small upstate New York town of Elmira on March 24, 1951, to a jeweller father and a nurse. His retail career kicked off in 1969 when, still at high school, he set off for the Big Apple with $150 in his pocket to purchase 20 pairs of bell-bottom jeans which he then sold in his hometown.

Before leaving high school, the young Tommy set up a shop called People's Place, which soon blossomed into a chain of ten stores. A keen rock 'n' roll fan, he took his inspiration from the British rock scene, and young musicians, including an unknown Bruce Springsteen, would visit the store. His gradual shift from retailer to designer came with his interest in customising jeans and other items in his stores.

In 1979 People's Place collapsed prompting the young entrepreneur to move to New York with his first wife Suzie to pursue a career in fashion design. After securing backing, he broke onto the fashion scene with his first signature collection in 1985. Not one to undersell himself, Tommy introduced the collection via a huge billboard ad in Times Square. In ranking him in the same league as established designers, Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis and Calvin Klein, Tommy's advertisement caused controversy in the fashion world which in turn brought great publicity for his first collection.

He'd decided the moment was ripe to reintroduce the "preppy old American look", and the collection proved popular with young people in sport and movies and music. Sales figures received a substantial shot in the arm in 1994 when rapper Snoop Dogg wore an oversized Hilfiger jumper on Saturday Night Live.

It was an appropriate association as his designs have long represented the merging of fashion and music and, more than any other designer, he has inspired - and been inspired by - stars of rap and rock. Since then he has expanded into womenswear, childrenswear, fragrances and home collections, and the label has been associated with a host of stars, including David Bowie, Beyonce and Enrique Iglesias.

Reflecting his passion for music Tommy established the Hilfiger Sessions, where up-and-coming musicians can jam with big stars. He's also launched Tommy TV, an interactive website to showcase the sessions.

Since splitting with his first wife Susie in 2000, after 20 years of marriage, Tommy has been dating former model Dee Ocleppo, with nuptials planned for August 2008. The couple live at one of New York's most coveted addresses, the converted Plaza Hotel overlooking Central Park, and the designer also has a property on the Caribbean island of Mustique. Tommy has four children with Susie, including his daughter Ally, who featured in reality TV show Rich Girls, and Richard who has released hip-hop tracks under the name Rich Hil.
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