As an 18-year-old whippersnapper from Elmira, upstate New York, Tommy left school to open the People’s Place, a shop selling a frontman aesthetic to his fellow music-mad teens.It was initially a success but, despite replicating the outlets in other East Coast cities, Tommy went bankrupt.He may not have become a Rolling Stone but, a bit like Jagger, it would be hard for Tommy Hilfiger to have passed you by.Over the past 25 years he must have sold jeans, polo shirts, chinos, blazers and kit bags to almost every man in America – his is a tale of phenomenal success, of award-winning highs and humiliating bankruptcy lows.
It was part Royal Tenenbaums and a whole lot English country-house party – an extended family of quirky models plus friends, grandparents, tennis rackets, a skateboard and a well-bred dog or two.
This new store in London’s Knightsbridge, which opened this week, is his 1,048th – I ask him what he thinks when he hears that figure?
Which number on the list did he get to before he sat down in his apartment at New York’s Plaza Hotel, or his house on Mustique, or his Connecticut mansion, feet up on the pouffe, and said to himself: ‘Tommy, you’ve made it’?
‘My answer is that I never feel that I’ve made it,’ he says in the manner of a charismatic politician – at once serious and seriously charming.
‘When someone feels that they have made it then their success is over, whereas I want to keep working, perfecting my collections, making the brand better, the stores better.