Tommy Hilfiger, insta-fashion and the high street copying myth


Tommy Hilfiger SS16

I wasn’t bowled over by Tommy Hilfiger’s AW16 collection with its slightly cheesy nautical theme. But the SS16, now that was another matter. The festival-ready, beach-ready mix of crochet and cotton, culturally appropriated motifs and exuberant colours was one of the winers of last September’s round of runway shows.

And given that Tommy Hilfiger is, relatively speaking, one of the more affordable runway brands, I thought I’d look online to see if anything from the collection met my two main criteria of being more than a one-season wonder and being affordable enough to make me break my never-pay-full-price rule.

But there’s a problem. What was online this weekend was a not-very-inspiring mix of the regular slightly-preppy Hilfiger fare. Given that Hilfiger is one of those labels moving to a an insta-fashion model come the next set of shows, this was quite surprise. Maybe all the good stuff is only in a TH store along 5th Avenue, or the Champs-Élysées, but as I’m not in those stores, it’s a disappointment.

Tommy Hilfiger SS16

Tommy Hilfiger SS16

High street copyists?

Which brings me to whole question of high street interpretations of catwalk label collections. I was quite amused to read a piece recently in which one of the founders of Moda Operandi (the online trunk show business) seemed to suggest that if designers got their goods in-store faster, their prospective customers would be less likely to buy a “cheaper knock-off version”.

Apart from the fact that a potential YSL or Gucci customer waiting for a must-have piece is unlikely to buy Zara’s version of the look (and vice versa, Zara shoppers don’t buy big into YSL or Gucci), the big question is whether those ‘knock’offs’ really exist on the high street in the way many people believe.

Yes, we know that the high street tracks the catwalks and takes inspiration from there. Thats only logical given that runway labels have the explicit permission to drive change and introduce new looks in a way that the design and buying teams at retail chains don’t.

And yes, we do see items suspiciously close to catwalk originals at some chains. But the idea that the high street is overloaded with direct catwalk copies isn’t correct.

For a start, the bulk of store collections are put together before the catwalks happen. And catwalk trends take time to filter through to the mainstream anyway. And high street designers are creating product for their own specific clients, not the shoppers who buy runway ranges. And cost/margins have a big effect on what the high street can and can’t do. And high street stores use the same research channels as designer labels so they’re often thinking along the same lines at the same time anyway. And high street sectors like denim and athleisure go their own merry way without the obsessive need to reference the catwalks. And…. well, you get the picture.

Anthropologie, Next, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Topshop, Bershka, Mango

Anthropologie, Next, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Topshop, Bershka, Mango

So back with Tommy Hilfiger’s SS16 collection and how the high street might or might not have jumped onto the trends.

I decided to do some hunting around to see whether the collection really has inspired a rash of copies. I didn’t dig deep – I just checked the most obvious big high street names to look at their new-ins and found just what I expected. The high street has been inspired by Hilfiger but isn’t slavishly copying. Even some items that could be said to be quite close (such as Toyshop and Zara’s satin bomber jackets) are pieces that crop up regularly in summer collections.

So it looks like we’ll all have to wait if we really want to tap into the Hilfiger celebration of high summer. Ho hum… can’t wait for ‘see now, buy now’ to kick-in.

Zara, Zara, River Island, Topshop, Oasis, French Connection, Topshop

Zara, Zara, River Island, Topshop, Oasis, French Connection, Topshop

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