Tommy Hilfiger still doesn’t know where those racism rumors started

The founder of the American legacy brand reflects on the impact of those rumors and his brand’s rise as a staple of streetwear.

If you’re of a certain age, you may recall a rumor that began in the late ‘90s about Tommy Hilfiger — specfically, that the designer appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and claimed he didn’t make his clothes for Black, Jewish, or Asian people.

This rumor has repeatedly been hilfiger-fashion-not-intended-minorities” data-ylk=”slk:proved;elm:context_link;itc:0″ class=”link rapid-noclick-resp”proved to be absolutely false, but what is true is how much Hilfiger appreciates that his brand has come to represent the intersection between aspirational luxury and streetwear in American culture.

As he launches his new Classics Reborn line, the legendary American designer reflects on the legacy of his brand, including the impact of that racist urban legend, in a recent interview with tommy-hilfiger-interview-fashion-brand-history” data-ylk=”slk:The Guardian;elm:context_link;itc:0″ class=”link rapid-noclick-resp”The Guardian. Hilfiger discusses his brand’s start in the late ‘80s and how times may have changed in the decades since, but what his brand represents has not.

Tommy Hilfiger, racism, American fashion, racism rumors,

Tommy Hilfiger attends the 2022 WWD Honors on Oct. 25, 2022 at Cipriani South Street in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

As a brand, Tommy Hilfiger simultaneously evokes youthful American preppydom and hip-hop culture. The brand began in earnest competition with fellow legacy brand Ralph Lauren, synonymous with American luxury, until it blossomed into streetwear. Hilfiger credits his brand’s rise to the most popular American brand of the ‘90s with its ability to hold space between those two seemingly disparate aesthetics that buzzy campaigns starring the late singer Aaliyah and other hip-hop and R&B icons of the era best exemplify.

“It was a perfect storm. I was dressing Puff Daddy for his tours. I was dressing Biggie Smalls. I was dressing

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Jeff Staple Predicts Streetwear’s Future and More at FN CEO Summit 2022

Jeff Staple took the stage to discuss brand relevance and his streetwear legacy during the FN CEO Summit at The Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Staple, who’s helmed his staple-sneaker-collaborations-guide-1203318082/” data-ylk=”slk:own streetwear brand” class=”link “own streetwear brand since 1997 and launched numerous viral collaborations, reminisced on his time in the streetwear world with FN’s senior news and features editor, Peter Verry, and said it’s a trajectory that’s still sinking in.

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Recalling his start selling T-shirts made after breaking into the Parsons School of Design’s silkscreening lab, Staple attributed consistency to his success.

“Trust me, 25 years later, it’s unbelievable that I have a streetwear brand attracting youth culture for a quarter century,” said the cover star of FN’s August issue. “Right from the beginning, I knew I wanted to create a legacy brand. I thought, ‘Why couldn’t street culture produce a legacy brand that lasts forever?’”

G-Eazy and Jeff Staple star on the cover of FN’s Aug. 1 issue. - Credit: Justin Bettman for FN

G-Eazy and Jeff Staple star on the cover of FN’s Aug. 1 issue. – Credit: Justin Bettman for FN

Justin Bettman for FN

This same logic was at play when Staple gave his brand its title. The designer describes it as “a raw, special element that you can’t live without,” describing his process as “just left, right, one step in front of the other for 25 years.”

Staple is a self-affirmed shoe collector, counting between 300 and 500 pairs in his own wardrobe. Though he’s heard rumors of the death of sneaker culture throughout his career, the creative confirmed his belief that “we are never going back.”

Remembering the origins of sneaker collecting becoming mainstream, Staple recalled how the standard shoe rotation of seven pairs expanded to 30-40 styles. The cause, according to him, is the “different adaptations and environments to wear different kinds of footwear”

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