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Tommy Hilfiger - Biography, Personal Life, Controversies

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Tommy Hilfiger grew up in an Irish Catholic family as the second of nine children. After attending Elmira Free Academy, he began to work in retail. Hilfiger commuted to New York City where he began to customize jeans and bell-bottoms. He sold his creations at a local store called Brown’s. Hilfinger opened his own shop, “The People’s Place” nearby. The store was frequented by teens as a local hangout, but people partied there more than they shopped. Many of the local stores began to close due to heavy competition from the newly opened Arnot Mall. The People’s Place was soon closed and went bankrupt when Hilfiger was just 25.

A Flair for Designs

Hilfiger began to design clothing which he sold in the rest of his shops located in upstate New York. He moved to the city with his now-estranged wife, Susie. Hilfiger was offered assistant designer positions with Perry Ellis and Calvin Klein, but turned them down in order to pursue his own dreams. In 1984, the Tommy Hilfiger Corporation was formed, and would go public eight years later. In 2004, the company had over 5,000 employees and revenues of almost $2 billion. Following an award for designer-of-the-year from his peers, Hilfiger decided to sell his company. It was bought by Apax Partners for over $1.5 billion in 2005. Soon after, a CBS TV reality show called “The Cut” aired. It followed the competition of 16 contestants as they fought to win a design job with Hilfiger. The winner was Chris Cortez.

Personal Life

Hilfiger has four children, including a daughter, Ally, who had a reality show called, “Rich Girls” on MTV. He has a home in Greenwich, CT; an apartment in Manhattan; a ski house in Vermont; an island home in the Caribbean; and a number of homes in Nantucket, Mass., and East Hampton, NY. In 2006, Hilfiger tried to punch Guns N’ Roses frontman, Axl Rose for moving Hilfiger’s girlfriend’s drink. Hilfiger was carried away by his own security. The club owner of the Plumm, where this event occured, said that Axl Rose behaved like “a gentleman” by not “retaliating and doing some serious damage.”


“Made in the USA

Hilfiger has been the subject of criticism over the manufacturing of clothes in virtual sweatshops in the U.S. territory of Saipan. Because Saipan is considered a U.S. Commonwealth, clothes can legally be labeled as “Made in the USA” even though federal labor laws including minimum wage are not applicable. In 2000, the company settled a class-action lawsuit filed by garment workers who claimed they were practically indentured servants.

The Oprah Urban Legend

Tommy Hilfier has been called a racist because of false claims that he made derogatory statement about Asians and black people’s affinity for his clothing while appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show. These claims were circulated through email, but were proven to be completely false as Hilfiger has never even been a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

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