Tommy Hilfiger

Tommy Hilfiger: Dyslexic Designer

Tommy HilfigerIconic fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger created an all American brand of clothing that remains popular among men and women of all ages since its debut in the 1980s. With a celebrity clientele and a recognizable logo, Hilfiger’s apparel is truly timeless.Hilfiger’s story is one of triumphs and tribulations. While the Hilfiger brand is known by many households in America, few are aware of the designer’s struggles with dyslexia. His tale of overcoming the learning disorder and emerging as a successful businessman can inspire the dyslexic community to persevere through their own difficulties.

Tommy Hilfiger’s Early Life
Hilfiger was born on March 24, 1951. His mother and father worked as a nurse and a jeweler, respectively. Hilfiger was the second oldest of his nine siblings. He went to a local high school as well as a vocational campus to do trade work in a machine shop.

Hilfiger was too short for athletics and says “I performed poorly at school…and was perceived as stupid because of my dyslexia.” Hilfiger chose not to attend college and began to work in retail clothing shops.

Hilfiger’s Rise to Fashion Stardom
Hilfiger traveled to New York City with $150 and purchased popular clothing items to customize and resell at downtown retailers. With the popularity of his original designs, Hilfiger opened his own clothing store at age 18. He named the business ‘The People’s Place,’ and specialized in the fashionable hippie apparel of the time. The store expanded to multiple outlets but went bankrupt with the changing economy.

Hilfiger described the bankruptcy to the London Times. “I was hard on myself,” he said. “I vowed never to fall into sloppy work habits again.”

Hilfiger started doing freelance fashion work for popular designers in the area. He befriended fashion icons like Calvin Klein, from whom he turned down a job offer as a design assistant. Hilfiger founded his namesake company in 1984.

The Tommy Hilfiger Corporation
Hilfiger’s soon to be iconic company was advertised by billboards in Times Square and word of mouth that promised the designer would take over the world of men’s fashion. The Tommy Hilfiger Corporation was successful under its management and the company went public in 1992. Hilfiger managed to bring in enough revenue to take over the entire business and hire employers around the world.

By the mid 1990s, celebrities clamored to be the face of The Tommy Hilfiger Corporation. Famous singers, like the late R&B vocalist Aaliyah and pop performer Britney Spears, were sponsored by Hilfiger and appeared in his advertising campaigns. The Hilfiger brand became recognized by its classic styles and tailored apparel. The corporation became the highest value clothing company on the New York stock exchange by 1999.

Hilfiger in the 21st Century
Hilfiger’s clothing remained popular among people of all ages. In 2004, a reality show titled ‘The Cut’ showed aspiring designers as they competed for a job in the fashion world with The Tommy Hilfiger Corporation.

Hip hop artists wore Hilfiger’s clothing during their performances and on album covers, bringing a diverse mass appeal to his classic apparel.

The designer experienced a bout of declining sales and sold the company in 2006, which was resold in 2010. Two years later, Hilfiger was named the fashion consultant of the reality competition, ‘American Idol.’

Hilfiger’s Personal Life
Hilfiger has four children with his ex-wife Susan, who was the creative director of his first store. He married his second wife in 2008 and welcomed a son in 2009. His oldest daughter has been featured on reality shows about celebrity children and worked on a fashion line with her father. His son Richard became a hip hop musician, performing under the name Rich Hill.

Hilfiger remains an avid fan of music, citing rockers like Bruce Springsteen as inspiration for his clothing lines. He created ‘The Hilfiger Sessions,’ where aspiring musicians can play with established performers on ‘Tommy TV,’ his interactive website.

Hilfiger’s clothing and accessories are still staples in the fashion world. He owns stores in multiple countries; which sell his apparel, perfumes, jewelry and even furniture accessories.

Tommy Hilfiger on Dyslexia
Although he was never diagnosed in school, Hilfiger has spoken out to reporters on his learning disability. “I still have trouble reading. I have to concentrate very hard at going left to right…” he says. “Otherwise my eye just wanders to the bottom of the page.”

Hilfiger attributes his dyslexia as one of the inspirations for him becoming a clothing designer. He believes that his lack of a formal education led him to being a unique designer who crafts different apparel than his fashion counterparts. His creative designs are recognized on their own by millions of people and his classic craftsmanship is distinct among other designers.

Tommy Hilfiger’s inspirational story can educate the dyslexic community about perseverance and creativity. Although the designer struggled with his schooling, he chose to take his own route and emerged as a successful name in the fashion industry. Hilfiger focused on his own strengths and utilized any difficult ordeals that came his way as a tool to further strive for success.

3 thoughts on “Tommy Hilfiger

  1. I first met Tommy when we were 16. He was pumping gas at the Hess station at the end of my street in Elmira Heights, NY. He looked so cute in a white jump suit, my friends and I just could not resist stopping by the station after school to flirt with him! One day when stopping by the station, Tommy was so upset. I asked him what was wrong. He said a teacher had told him that he would never amount to anything. I replied, yes you will – just don’t listen to that stupid teacher! And Tommy replied – someday I will show everyone! Somehow we all made it through high school. I went to college and Tommy opened his store, The People’s Place, in downtown Elmira. Whenever I came home from college, I visited Tommy at the store. I have very fond memories of our friendship. We both moved on early in our twenties, but I never forgot his contagious smile and his thirst to succeed. I never knew that he was dyslexic – that was something we weren’t aware of in the late 60’s and early 70’s. He was my friend and that’s all that mattered! I sometimes wonder if Tommy remembers me, yet I sure remember him with fondness from our youth.

  2. What a wonderful story.
    I am the mother of a dyslexic who is very interested in fashion but also struggling in school. Wondering if Tommy ever has dyslexics intern or shadow him. That kind of mentorship could really change a child’s life.

  3. I’m going for fashion design and I feel very stupid with my dyslexia. Sometimes I feel that I want to drop everything, and today I was searching for designers with dyslexia and I found this article. It make feel better but my whole life I have feel stupid and dumb. This article make want to continue, but who knows if I’d have the same luck. I feel that my heart is broken because there is no fix for this stupid dyslexia.

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