A new project, trip or collaboration may always be on the horizon, but for the Hilfigers, family comes first.
That was the message fashion’s power couple delivered at FN’s CEO Summit on Thursday, where they headlined the April 19-21 event in Miami Beach. Speaking with Fairchild Media Group Chief Brand Officer and FN Editorial Director Michael Atmore, Tommy and Dee Hilfiger broke down how they balance work and and personal life, with a shared family of 7, including 3 special needs children.
“Anyone who has children knows the amount of work that goes into having children, raising children, they always need our attention no matter the age,” said Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger onstage during the summit. “I do believe that Tommy and I understand that one plus one in our case is three, and even five. We have an understanding that we’re much better in life with our kids. We’re much stronger together, we support one another, and that really is the glue that binds us.”
The couple also broke down the tenets of their relationship, personally, creatively and in business: “Trust, respect, and you have to have fun. I think that makes for a great relationship,” said Tommy Hilfiger.
“I have a built-in muse, and that’s incredibly helpful,” he continued. “I think she has an amazing taste level and I’m always asking her what she thinks. I’m getting feedback from her all the time. I’m asking her what sneakers I should wear. We bounce ideas off of each other.”
While Hilfiger said he is not involved with the creative process of his wife’s namesake accessories brand, Dee Ocleppo, he will weigh in when she asks for his feedback. The designer also pointed to new leadership, through a recent partnership with Titan Industries and the addition of president Greg Morel (a Camuto Group, Sam Edelman and Caleres veteran) to help chart the brand’s next chapter.
“[They] are incredibly supportive and helpful and it allows me to think of other things that [Dee] should be doing in the future instead of just the day to day,” said Hilfiger.
I have a lot opportunity, it’s still a fairly new brand. I just signed on with some new partners, I’m very excited about that,” said Ocleppo Hilfiger. “I have a long runway ahead of me. We are doing shoes and bags and some apparel, but I think that we can get into home, or jewelry. That’s very exciting to me.”
For the Tommy Hilfiger brand (owned by PVH Corp. since 2010), the namesake founder and principal designer honed in on great product as the infallible driver of success through uncertain times.
“I think younger people, Gen Z, are so obsessed with social media and pop culture, they want to enjoy life through going through concerts and being in touch with their heroes and their stars, the celebrities and the influencers,” said Hilfiger, who most recently released a sustainably-focused classics line with Shawn Mendes, part of an ongoing partnership with the music artist. “But I also think that if we in this business continue to make great, new, fresh product, it will always sell, regardless of the economy,” said Hilfiger. “I started my business when I was 18 years old and have been in business for 50 years, so I’ve seen a lot. But I always know that people want something new, something fresh, something cool, something different from what else is out there. When we, designers, and we, fashion people, put something out that is new and fresh, we can start a whole new trend. I’ve seen it happen over and over again.”
Both designers pointed to technology, be it gaming or livestream shopping, as avenues to the future of fashion and retail. “You always have to stay on top of understanding what’s coming down the pipeline in technology, and how it will advance our businesses,” said Ocleppo Hilfiger.