Tommy Hilfiger
Tommy Hilfiger in 2010
Born Thomas Jacob Hilfiger
(1951-03-24) March 24, 1951 (age 63)
Elmira, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Fashion designer
Spouse(s) Susie Hilfiger
(m. 1980-2000)
Dee Ocleppo
(m. 2008-present)
Children Alexandria ("Ally")
Sebastian Thomas
Labels Tommy Hilfiger

Thomas Jacob Hilfiger (born March 24, 1951)[1] is an American fashion designer and founder of the lifestyle brand Tommy Hilfiger Corporation.

Early life

Hilfiger was born in Elmira, New York.[2][3] The second of nine children of a jeweler and a nurse, he is of German-Swiss and Irish descent, and was raised Catholic.[4] Hilfiger also claims direct descent from the Scottish poet Robert Burns.[5] His parents wanted him to get a college education and pursue a traditional career.

He attended the Elmira Free Academy for high school. He also attended GST BOCES Bush Campus[6] in Elmira, New York for machine shop trades.


Hilfiger’s career in fashion began as a high school student in 1969, when he opened a small chain of stores called People’s Place with just $150. His goal was to bring fashion from New York and London to upstate New York. Self taught, he soon began designing for the boutiques he had always admired. In 1979 he moved to New York City to pursue a career as a full-time fashion designer.[7] Here, he caught the eye of Mohan Murjani, a businessman who was looking to launch a line of men’s clothing and believed that Hilfiger’s entrepreneurial background gave him the unique ability to approach men’s fashion in a new way. With Murjani’s support, Hilfiger introduced his first signature collection in 1985 by modernizing button-down shirts, chinos, and other time-honored classics with updated fits and details.[8]

Largely due to declining sales, in 2006, Tommy Hilfiger sold his company for $1.6 billion, or $16.80 a share, to Apax Partners, a private investment company.[9][10][11]

In March 2010, Phillips-Van Heusen, owner of Calvin Klein, bought the Tommy Hilfiger Corporation for $3 billion.[12]

Popular Culture

In 1985, Hilfiger hired legendary ad man George Lois to develop a billboard for the center of New York’s Times Square. The now famous “hangman ad” ignited the designer’s career and launched a dynamic and productive relationship between Hilfiger and Lois. In 2007, Hilfiger and Lois collaborated on the book Iconic America: A Roller-Coaster Ride through the Eye-Popping Panorama of American Pop Culture, which presents a mosaic of over 400 iconic and iconoclastic images from the melting pot of the American experience. [13]

In the 1990s, Hilfiger featured emerging musical talent such as Lenny Kravitz and Britney Spears in his advertising campaigns. He was listed as main sponsor for Britney Spears 1999 ...Baby One More Time Tour. His nephew, pop singer Michael Fredo was also a model and spokesperson for Tommy Jeans and was the opening act on Britney Spears' Baby One More Time Tour.[14]

As Hilfiger’s designs merged with popular culture, he began to extend his company’s distinct brand message across a variety of mediums and platforms. Celebrating the long association between Hilfiger Denim and the music world, in 2009 the company launched the brand’s online evolution: www.hilfigerdenim.com. This website allows visitors to peruse the latest cutting-edge Hilfiger Denim collections, while enjoying the music that inspired the designs.[15]


In 1998, Parsons School of Design in New York City honored him with their Designer of the Year award, as did GQ magazine for their annual “Men of the Year” issue. In 1995 he was named Menswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).[16] That same year, he received VH1’s “From the Catwalk to the Sidewalk” award at their annual Fashion and Music Awards. [17]

He has also won several FiFi Awards, the fragrance industry’s most illustrious honor. In November 2002, he was selected as GQ magazine’s International Designer of the Year award recipient in Germany. That same month, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) organization presented Hilfiger with the Future of America Award, D.A.R.E.’s highest honor, for his philanthropic efforts for America’s youth. [18]

In 2006, GQ Spain honored Hilfiger as Designer of the Year, while the Hispanic Federation awarded him the Individual Achievement Award at their annual gala the following year. In 2008, Hilfiger received the coveted Bambi Award for the fashion category during the 60th annual prestigious Bambi Awards ceremony, while Women’s Wear Daily listed him as the #1 Designer and #16 Brand in their annual “100 list.”[19]

In 2009, he went on to receive the respected UNESCO Support Award for his philanthropic efforts throughout the years, as well as the Marie Claire Lifetime Achievement Award. Hilfiger was also awarded the Alpha Award of Honor from the U.S. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, for his dedication to serving the community. In 2010, Hilfiger was honored with the Legends Award by Pratt Institute and in 2011, Philadelphia University awarded him the Spirit of Design Award, while the Fresh Air Fund honored him for his contributions to Camp Tommy. [20]

Charities and Causes

In 1995, Hilfiger launched The Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation to enrich the physical and intellectual well being of youth, with a major emphasis on education and cultural programs that impact a diverse population. Hilfiger is actively involved in a number of charities and causes, including the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King Jr., National Memorial Project Foundation and the Anti-Defamation League. He has also served on the board of directors for The Fresh Air Fund, a New York-based group that has been sending underprivileged children to summer camp since 1877, and the Race to Erase MS (Multiple Sclerosis) since 1994.[21]

Over the past five years Hilfiger has also supported Breast Health International—a globally renowned organization committed to finding a cure for breast cancer—by designing five limited edition bags to benefit the charity. Through previous initiatives, Hilfiger has partnered with actresses Cristiana Capotondi and Claudia Gerini, France’s former first lady Carla Bruni, Helena Christensen and Milla Jovovich, Renee Zellweger, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and most recently Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer. As ambassadors of the program, these women have helped raise funds and promote the limited edition bags. Half of the proceeds from the limited edition bag are donated to Breast Health International’s “Fund for Living” program.[22]

In 2009, The Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation donated over $2 million to Millennium Promise, a non-profit organization founded in 2005 to help end extreme poverty. The partnership celebrates the Foundation’s globalization of its philanthropic mission to help build a healthy and civil society by supporting education, physical well-being and cultural programs. It also marks the first major global effort supported by The Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation. In 2010, Millennium Promise named Tommy Hilfiger the first Millennium Promise MDG Global Leader. [23]

Personal life

Hilfiger has four children with his ex-wife, Susie: Alexandria ("Ally"), Richard a rapper who goes by the name Ricky Hil and is signed to Warner Bros. Records, Elizabeth, and Kathleen.

On December 12, 2008, he married his second wife Dee Ocleppo (Deniz Carolina Erbuğ), former wife of Gianni Ocleppo, an Italian tennis player of the 1980s. On February 25, 2009, the New York Post reported that Ocleppo was three months pregnant.[24] The couple had a son in 2009.

Product lines

  • Hilfiger Denim, a premium-upscale denim collection for men and women; designs are inspired by American classics and finished with a modern edge[25]
  • True Star Gold, fragrance created by Hilfiger and spokeswoman Beyoncé Knowles
  • True Star, another fragrance created by Hilfiger and with spokesperson Beyoncé Knowles
  • True Star Men, a fragrance created by Hilfiger with spokesperson Enrique Iglesias
  • Tommy Girl, fragrance for women
  • Red Label, a line of denim-themed products including jeans, t-shirts, and sweatshirts
  • H by Tommy Hilfiger, an upscale line which was ended after Tommy Hilfger sold his company, the same sort of style is now carried on under the Tommy Hilfiger label in their specialty stores
  • Tommy Hilfiger, the company line of clothes sold in department stores, company stores, and specialty stores
  • Tommy Sport, a defunct line that came out in the 1990s and capitalized on Hilfiger's popularity in urban areas
  • Tommy Hilfiger for the Home, a line of bedding and bath products
  • Tommy Sailing, was due to be released in January or February 2007
  • Tommy, a brightly colored casual line
  • Tommy Jeans, a denim inspired clothing collection and corresponding fragrance
  • Hilfiger Athletics, a sport inspired clothing line and fragrance


External links

  • Official website
  • Template:Fashion Net
  • Urban Legends that allege false claims against Hilfiger
  • Anti-Defamation League; Letter to Tommy Hilfiger