Indian culture has inspired Tommy Hilfiger since the beginning of his career. The 63-year-old iconic American designer confesses that his heart lies in Indian wear and that he often uses in his creations "Ikkats, block prints and colours that are seen only in Jaipur".
"I have seen amazing Indian clothes and I love traditional Indian saris and Indian wear," Hilfiger, who reigns the fashion world despite any formal training, told IANS in an interview here.
The man, who has spent 30 years in the fashion industry dealing with new techniques and creating news, admits that the Indian fashion industry has been quiet for very long, but feels that now it is on the "verge of exploding".
"I think faces like Naeem Khan are doing great internationally. Also Prabal Gurung is an incredible name and he is someone who is coming up very strong," said the king of the runway who was sporting his trademark 'preppy' look dressed in a red trouser, white shirt and blue jacket. He teamed it with a pair of loafers.
Hilfiger, who is here to commemorate 10 years of his brand's existence in the country, has made a niche clientele with his cool, casual, relaxed and youthful designs. But he also looks up to India for inspiration.
"Being a global fashion brand, I have to incorporate inspiration from all over the world and India also inspires me a lot. Sometimes I use Ikkats and block prints, which are truly Indian," said Hilfiger, who will host special events in the capital as well as in Mumbai.
"Sometimes I use colours that are seen only in Jaipur. I also did khakee in my collection and khakee belongs to India. There is so much of inspiration from India all the time," he said.
Keeping in mind the 'mixed and matched wardrobe' that fashionistas flaunt, the designer believes that Indian designs can tap global market in a big way by creating the scope for mixing and matching.
"If we can do a lot with mixing and matching in kurta-pajama globally, it will sell. Today, people dress in a very eclectic and mixed way. Sometimes people wear jeans with tuxedo jacket or may be jeans with Louis Vuitton heels and a beautiful blouse. It's more casual and more glamorous," he said.
Indian designers have an edge compared to their international counterparts.
"Indian designers have tremendous advantage. They have access to their beautiful fabrics, most incredible embroideries, most incredible ability to do hand work, amazing tailors, and amazing ability to go to silk mills. So, I think all the designers should focus on that," he added.
It was way back in the 1985 that Hilfiger introduced his first signature collection by modernising button-down shirts, chinos, and other time-honoured classics with updated fits and details.
Since then his business has grown from a single menswear collection to a global lifestyle brand earning over $6 billion dollars in retail sales in 2012. There are over 1,200 Tommy Hilfiger stores, in over 90 countries.
Coincidentally, the brand's tryst with India started during the same period when Hilfiger was just starting out.
"I vividly remember my first trip to India, and over the course of my career, I've returned here many times. I continue to be inspired by the energetic culture, incredible colours, textures and fabrics," said the designer, who grew up in Elmira, New York, in a working-class Irish Catholic neighbourhood.
However, it took him two-decades to open his first store in India. It came up in 2004 at Forum Mall in Bangalore, and receieved an overwhelming response.
After a decade, the designer plans to increase his presence in the country.
"The brand's growth in India has been phenomenal, something that was beyond my imagination. We have been embraced by the Indian people and we have embraced the Indian people also," he said.
"We are a global lifestyle brand and we brought our casual wear into it, but there is much more. In future, we will bring our home products, personal care products for instance fragrances. We expanding our denim and women wear business. We are already expanding accessory business here, so in future it will be an entire lifestyle brand here," he added.
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