Tommy’s over the hill, but business is great

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Tommy’s over the hill, but business is great

Here’s the real highlight of what went on behind the scenes at Tommy Hilfiger’s 20th year anniversary fashion show: Tommy Hilfiger acted like Tom Cruise, and not in a Top Gun way. Just like Mr. Cruise jumping around on a couch on national TV, Mr. Hilfiger’s prancing in front of the Korean media got a lot of people talking.
With Queen’s song “We are the Champions” pumping out of the speakers and the designer sporting a glittering Rolling Stones “tongue” T-shirt, Mr. Hilfiger closed his Asian tour acting like a rapturous rock star at a packed stadium. He galloped along the runway with his blond locks flying and then flung his red jacket off into the audience, most of whom appeared to be wondering, “What was that for?”
The designer’s personal frenzy continued at the post-party at Kitchen, the posh hotel restaurant where only a handful of industry professionals were admitted. Surprised by the emptiness of the floor at the “strictly invitation-only” event, Mr. Hilfiger’s entourage asked the local party organizer to fill in the restaurant by having hotel guests join the gyrating fashion designer.
“I’m 54 but feel like 21!” Mr. Hilfiger shouted. Undeterred and in party mode, he tried to work a few yoga stretches into his rock n’ roll dance moves. The camera crew liked it, but everyone else crossed their arms and watched the prancing for a while before leaving out of boredom.
Mr. Hilfiger’s stay in Korea was the last leg of his Asian tour, on a mission to “spread his fashion,” which kicked off on Sept. 16 in Shanghai, and moved through Hong Kong and Tokyo.
His mega-business in the United States may have peaked after years of celebrity-endorsed campaigns, but in Asia, the brand’s licensing has been expanding.
That Mr. Hilfiger started off over 20 years ago with a meager $150 and 20 pairs of jeans seems impossible, given the brand’s Everest-high sales figure in the Korean market this year of a whopping 75 billion won ($75 million). That’s an almost 2,500 percent increase in sales, according to the brand manager, from its launch in August 2003, when the first store opened on a fashionably pulsating street in Apgujeong-dong in southern Seoul.
Tommy Hilfiger currently has 102 stores nationwide, and the number will surge again when “Tommy Hilfiger Kids” opens early next year. Except for the golf line, Mr. Hilfiger’s main lines, including men’s, women’s, jeans and some of the “H” line, are sold here.
Despite such impressive numbers, SK Networks, the Korean partner of Tommy Hilfiger, is looking to do more than just make big money, said Son Moon-kook, the head of Fashion Business Division of SK Networks.
“SK Networks specializes in marketing,” Mr. Son says, “One of our goals has been to have direct contact with retail consumers.”
That seems to mean spreading Korean style around the world. Mr. Son plans to start a Korean brand marketed overseas. His experience with Tommy Hilfiger and DKNY (whose Korean affiliate will launch in January) has contributed to SK Networks’ expertise in international marketing.
Already, SK Networks has been supporting Ekjo, a Paris-based Korean fashion brand to be distributed in the United States and China, then later reverse-imported to Korea ― because Koreans prefer things American.
Mr. Hilfiger, however, says that these days, “American style is global.” His commemorative collection in Korea was limited to a throwback to the affluent, sunshine ’80s of America, in all its preppiness.


by Ines Cho

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