Tommy Hilfiger to commit R83 million annually to advancing representation in the fashion industry

Fashion blogger Sarah Guessab wears Tommy Hilfiger. Photo by Melodie Jeng/Getty Images
Fashion blogger Sarah Guessab wears Tommy Hilfiger. Photo by Melodie Jeng/Getty Images
  • Tommy Hilfiger is launching the People’s Place Program - a three-pillared platform with an initial minimum commitment of $5 million (approximately R83 million) in annual funding for the next three years. 
  • The goal is to advance the representation of black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) within the fashion and creative industries.
  • It will center partnerships, career access and industry leadership. 

On 31 May 2020, U.S. designer Tommy Hilfiger called for bold change in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, stating: “What’s happening is not okay. We need action.” 

“What is happening to Black communities in the U.S. and around the world has no place in our society,” says Tommy Hilfiger. “The fact that it has continued to exist in our industry – overtly and systemically – is unacceptable. We are far behind where we should be in achieving diverse representation. It shouldn’t have taken us this long to acknowledge that, but we are determined and committed to changing it going forward. We will be intentional, fearless and unwavering in the actions we take. Through the People’s Place Program, we will use our platform to create opportunities and stand up for what is right." 

After taking time to listen, reflect and discuss, the PVH Corp-owned Tommy Hilfiger brand's next step in this journey is to commit an initial minimum of $5 million (approximately R83 million) in annual funding for the next three years towards a three-pillared platform with the mission of advancing minority representation in fashion, and beyond.

More specifically, it will prioritise the representation of black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) within the fashion and creative industries. Centering around partnerships, career access and industry leadership, the program seeks to achieve consistent, long-term change.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS | 2020 Lyst of hottest fashion labels released, but how fiery are they about race matters?

Alright, but we've seen many press-baiting promises to aggrieved black people over the past few weeks, so what makes Tommy's one any different? Or any more credible? 

In recent times, the Tommy Hilfiger brand has opened both its heart and purse to those most vulnerable in the face of the Covid-19 crisis with parent company PVH Corp committing $2 million (roughly R37 million) towards the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, in addition to other funds to support frontline medical workers, the fight against food insecurity, supply chain and industry relief and community resiliency. 

Tommy is also a friend of the environment. Earlier this year, they revealed two footwear styles designed using recycled apple skin fiber – a bio-based leather alternative derived from the apple farming industry’s waste. This leather alternative was another means of building on to Tommy Hilfiger’s ongoing journey to create fashion that welcomes all and wastes nothing. 

READ MORE: An apple a day and '7 colours' on your plate - these labels have sustainable fashion on the menu 

Keeping to the rhythm of welcoming all then, is it surprising that they're also dancing to the passionate tune of the #BlackLivesMatter movement? Hardly. Although whenever race and Tommy Hilfiger are brought up in the same sentence, those 1996 racism claims resurface. 

However, in 2007 the U.S. fashion maven put the rumours to bed on Oprah's hot seat. In 2012, he tackled the stain on his brand's reputation once again in a WWD interview. Fashionista recalls Tommy saying, "It hurt for a long period of time, not from a business standpoint, because our business doubled in that time. It went from $1 billion to $2 billion in that time. But it hurt here [placing hand on his heart]. It really made me believe someone was out for me. We really never found the source but hope that at some point in time people will realise it was just a nasty rumour." 

It would be a shame if this had turned out to be, in fact, true given how much support Tommy Hilfiger has garnered globally from back people and POC. Not to mention the fact that their global ambassador, Zendaya Coleman, is a woman of colour. 

And boy, do black and POC people wear Tommy well. 

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 02: Designer Tommy Hilfiger

MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 24: Model Wallette Watson
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 24: Model Wallette Watson
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 24: Model Wallette Watson
All images: Getty 

Now that we have that out of the way for just one more time - what exactly does the new Tommy Hilfiger pledge entail? 

Partnerships and representation 

Tommy Hilfiger will enhance its diverse talent pipeline, focusing on purpose-led collaborations that specifically increase minority visibility and partner with organisations and creative peers whose mission is to advance BIPOC representation and equity in the fashion industry.

Career support and industry access

To advance representation of minority communities within the fashion and creative industries, the brand will use its knowledge and resources to ensure career opportunities by providing access to information or physical materials, specialist advice, industry introductions and more.

Industry leadership

To increase representation at every level, Tommy Hilfiger will commit to independent, industry-wide analyses of diversity, equity and inclusion in the fashion industry, and will work towards creating concrete action plans to use internally that can also be shared with the broader fashion industry.

READ MORETommy Hilfiger donates 10 000 T-shirts to coronavirus frontline healthcare workers to wear with PPE 

The program takes its name from Tommy Hilfiger’s first store, which opened in 1969 in Hilfiger’s hometown of Elmira, New York. At only 18 years old, Tommy created the People’s Place as a dedicated space for people from all walks of life to come together to enjoy art, music, fashion and pop culture. Shaped by the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the original store fostered an exchange of ideas, encouraged authentic self-expression and challenged social norms. It is in this spirit that the new People’s Place Program has been founded and will continue to expand. 

READ MORECult favourite youth brand Vans joins #StopHateForProfit Facebook boycott campaign 

“As a company, we haven’t done enough,” says Martijn Hagman, CEO of Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe. “But we are determined to do better. We are taking immediate action to ensure that BIPOC communities in the fashion industry feel represented, heard and equally welcome to their seat at the table. The People’s Place journey starts now with a dedicated internal governance structure that will drive and report regularly on the long-term objectives of the platform. This is a firm commitment and first step in a long journey for what the People’s Place Program can achieve.”

Tommy Hilfiger is building a governance structure to oversee the People’s Place Program and ensure its success. Senior leadership will be appointed to direct the program, accelerate its growth internally and externally, and maintain focus on transparency through regular reporting on progress and impact made. The People’s Place Program team is currently engaging in discussions with industry peers and partners who can help advance the platform mission and maximise impact throughout the fashion landscape. 

tommy hilfiger commits to representation
Image supplied by Tommy Hilfiger 

PVH Corp and its entire brand portfolio is taking a stand against racism. PVH will use its resources and the platforms for Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Izod, Van Heusen, Arrow, Warner’s, Olga, True& Co. and Geoffrey Beene to help end racial inequality. The PVH Foundation donated $100 000 to each of The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, which supports racial justice through advocacy, impact litigation and education, and The National Urban League, a historic civil rights organisation dedicated to economic empowerment, equality and social justice. During the month of June, The PVH Foundation further matched 100 percent of charitable donations made by associates globally to organizations supporting racial justice.

As part of the PVH family, Tommy Hilfiger will also be making immediate internal strides to become a more informed, less biased organisation with a strong sense of belonging. To address shortcomings in its internal BIPOC representation, the company has launched a Comprehensive Action Plan as the starting point in its journey to further address discrimination, injustice, inequality and racism. The Comprehensive Action Plan will shape how the company moves closer to reflecting the diversity of its consumer base.  

This starts with the following steps:

Listen

• Creating more opportunities for all associates to listen and be heard.

• Equipping leaders and hiring managers at all levels with tools and resources to develop a deeper understanding of systemic racism, privilege and bias to become stronger allies and advocates for change.

Learn

• Rolling out mandatory continuous unconscious bias training to all associates.

• Building out a dedicated Inclusion and Diversity digital resource channel accessible to all associates.

• Launching an educational and informational event series for associates on racial justice.

Act

• Broadening Business Resource Groups (BRGs) to include regional chapters dedicated to advancing, empowering and amplifying BIPOC voices in our offices around the world.

• Attracting more diverse talent by evolving recruitment policies and practices, casting a wider net and thoughtfully increasing representation at all levels of the organisation.

Additional information provided by Styling Concepts on behalf of Tommy Hilfiger

Follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our stories and giveaways.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What are you most looking forward to buying this Black Friday?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
It looks like the pandemic is still far from over, so more loungewear
16% - 23 votes
The lockdown has made me want to invest more in homeware and furniture, so I'll be adding those to my Black Friday cart
26% - 37 votes
I'm going to use it to get a headstart on Christmas gifting
38% - 54 votes
Footwear is all about comfort this year, so definitely sneakers
13% - 19 votes
It's a good time to get discounted wigs and other beauty essentials
6% - 8 votes
Vote