This week, Universal Music Group announced it has teamed up with uber-preppy fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger to launch a rock n' roll, artist-branded clothing line for high-end stores. While it may seem strange to recruit a designer known for country club and yacht-wear, Hilfiger has already proved an unmatchable savvy with designing for a completely unrelated music genre. Remember the 90s?
Case in point: In middle school, more than anything I wanted those Tommy Hilfiger boxer briefs with the red, white and navy blue logo on the waistband. Yes, a twelve-year-old girl dreaming about wearing $30 men's boxer briefs. Hilfiger launched a huge campaign in the late 90s, recruiting the brightest stars from the hip-hop and R&B communities to represent his label, including Usher, Eve and Jermaine Dupri. What really set off the odd pairing was Snoop Dogg, whose first album debuted at #1 the year before, wearing a "Tommy" rugby shirt for his 1994 Saturday Night Live performance. Suddenly hip-hop fans were rushing to Hilfiger's stores.
For me, what brought Hilfiger to my attention was a spread in Teen Magazine with the freshly-debuted Aaliyah wearing those boxer briefs sticking out from underneath her infinitely baggy Tommy Jeans. As one of the most prominent artists in Tommy Hilfiger's campaigns, she, along with many of her musical peers, became one in the same with the Hilfiger name--literally, his name all over her.
And who's that baby-faced dj in this print ad? Why, it's my future husband (whether he knows or not), musician/producer Mark Ronson in his pre-pompadour days, who at the time was blowing up as a hip-hop dj in New York. Hilfiger has an eye for both the best of new and emerging musical talent, which will be crucial for this upcoming rock n' roll line.
Whether or not it was a conscious decision in the Hilfiger camp to promote the brand to hip-hop back then, or the community's own attraction to the label, Hilfiger took it as far as it could go. Certainly Universal is banking on his ability to do the same with their new partnership. From my own memory, 90s Tommy Hilfiger wasn't just a hot trend, but an utter fashion melee where even the most casual hip-hop fans (myself included) were scrambling for anything with his name on it.
Universal and Hilfiger have not yet named any particular artist they will be collaborating with, but the Universal roster contains platinum-selling talent like Lady Gaga, Kanye West, U2 and Justin Bieber. Despite such a superstar lineup, the music giant is still suffering from the overall decline in record sales. The hope is to find new revenue streams with this fashion venture to make up for the loss, as merchandise sales have been relatively steady (creepy Justin Bieber dolls anyone?). Only Hilfiger himself and not his namesake label will be collaborating with Universal, so no need to push tennis and cricket on rock stars. But if the designer can bring country club to "da club," he'll have no problem selling rock n' roll to high-end shoppers.
Hilfiger/Strokes photo by Jamie McCarthy/WireImage