Tommy Hilfiger & Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger on Their Working Relationship, Pandemic Lessons & More at FN CEO Summit 2021

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They are the ultimate fashion power couple.

Tommy Hilfiger and wife Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger sat down with Michael Atmore, FN editorial director and chief brand officer at Fairchild Media Group, for an intimate conversation today on business and the future of the industry.

More from Footwear News

Ocleppo Hilfiger currently runs her own namesake shoe brand while also helming Judith Leiber as creative director. Plus, she is in the midst of working on a collaboration with Iris Apfel. Hilfiger, meanwhile, remains one of fashion’s biggest forces as the principal designer of Tommy Hilfiger Global.

Keep reading for key takeaways from the talk:

Lessons Learned

For the Hilfigers, the COVID-19 pandemic meant a time to step back and reassess. “I feel like we’ve been really productive and not running around and transporting ourselves everywhere, which takes a lot of time and takes a lot of energy. It’s given me more time to focus on being creative and being with my family,” said Ocleppo Hilfiger.

Diving headfirst into digital was also a major outcome for both.

“I can call myself an expert on digital, video games, on virtual reality, on virtual product — what’s going on in the metaverse — how those are all coming together. I really believe that that is our future,” said her husband, noting the Dee Ocleppo brand is embarking on the livestream shopping trend, while Tommy Hilfiger is immersing itself in VR.

Working Together

“More than anything else, we’re each other’s sounding boards,” said Hilfiger. “It’s a great sort of balance because I have many years experience and that balance between creativity and commerce lives with both of us. I think that’s one of the reasons her brand is now really taking off.”

Ocleppo Hilfiger added that she sees her husband as a business person first, then a creator.

She said, “It’s wonderful to be able to have that person right next to you to be able to ask for that kind of advice, because it’s invaluable to me.”

Diversity

Last May, Hilfiger personally spoke out against racism following the death of George Floyd, and the brand took the next step in its fight for justice by committing a minimum of $5 million in annual funding over the next three years, which will go toward a three-pillared platform through the launch of the People’s Place Program, which is named after Hilfiger’s first store that made its debut in 1969. The mission is to advance representation of Black, indigenous and people of color, not just in the company but within the fashion industry as a whole.

“We’re using this program to embrace the BIPOC community — bringing in talent and allowing them opportunities that they wouldn’t ordinarily have, whether it’s mentoring or collaborations,” Hilfiger said. (Next up, the brand has an anticipated collab coming up from Romeo Hunte.) “I think the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter Movement [escalated] this and enlightened so many people. But it didn’t take that to put us into this framework. And I believe it’s part of the future. And if you’re not there as a brand, you may as well go home.”

Re-Emerging After Covid

The Hilfgers are both optimistic on life after the pandemic. As restrictions ease and vaccinations ramp up, the couple is predicting a Roaring Twenties comeback.

“We have actually had a huge uptick in selling high heel shoes,” said Ocleppo Hilfiger. “So my theory on that is the ladies are excited to get out there, to get dressed up, do their hair, to put on makeup, a beautiful dress and yes, wear high heels.”

Added Hilfiger, “People are dying to go out to restaurants, to go to clubs, travel, stay in a hotel, to take that vacation that they were hoping for or dreaming about. And they want to buy new clothes, new accessories, new shoes, too. But there has to be more of a comfort factor built in because now we’re so accustomed to it.”

Summit sponsors include presenting sponsor PayPal and event sponsors Aetrex, Caleres, FDRA, K-Swiss, Riskified, SkyPad, Sperry, Two Ten and Zappos.

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