Martijn Hagman, CEO Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe, discusses inclusivity and sustainability in fashion
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Martijn Hagman, CEO Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe, discusses inclusivity and sustainability in fashion

Martijn Hagman, CEO Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe, discusses inclusivity and sustainability in fashion

In an exclusive interview, Hagman talks about helming a brand that focuses as much on fashion as it does on its social development goals

Martijn Hagman, CEO Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe

To regard Tommy Hilfiger as only a premium all-American designer brand is a severely limiting exercise. The brand, which employs more than 16,000 people globally and generates billions in sales revenue annually, knows that its voice extends far beyond fashion and deep into conversations around sustainability, circular economy and inclusivity.

“The topic of sustainability…is core to who we are as a brand, and a responsibility that directly reports to me within the business,” says Martijn Hagman, CEO of Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe, in an exclusive interview with Gulf Business.

“We launched Make it Possible in 2020, which is our bold sustainability programme that reinforces Tommy Hilfiger’s commitment to create fashion that Wastes Nothing and Welcomes All. We’ve outlined initial targets centred on circularity and inclusivity, as seen in our recent products using more organic and recycled materials, as well as in our increased transparency, as it relates to products, supply chain and brand impacts.”

There is a dire need for the fashion industry to drastically alter its course to become more sustainable. By one estimate, the fashion industry consumes 98 million tonnes of non-renewable resources annually, while the volume of clothes being bought is projected to triple by 2050.

As for striding towards a sustainable future, Tommy Hilfiger has hit the ground running. By 2030, it aims for all its products to be designed, produced and distributed to return to biological or technical loops at the end of their lifecycle. Two years ago, it launched its first 100 per cent recycled cotton denim jeans, which used leftover cotton scraps obtained from factory floors and cutting tables, in addition to thread from recycled plastic bottles. It made Tommy Hilfiger the first brand to achieve 100 per cent recycled cotton fabric at an industrial scale for one of its most popular lines, its denim jeans.

Its Luv the World Spring 2021 capsule collection launched last year took that thought one step further. All the pieces in it were designed using 100 per cent recycled as well as 100 per cent recyclable materials which further used chemical-free print graphics too.

Rather than discarding the pieces at the end of their lifecycle, Tommy used the hang tags on them to depict how to tie-die white T-shirts, how to turn a T-shirt into a tote bag or a face mask, and even how to repurpose a hoodie into a striking dog jacket.

Its previously launched Tommy for Life programme also builds on the idea of extending the end-of-life terms of its products. Tommy for Life takes pre-owned or damaged Tommy Hilfiger and Tommy Jeans garments and either fixes them or ‘remixes’ them into new, limited-edition styles which are then resold.

“Our Spring 2022 collection includes 76 per cent more sustainable styles. Our 2021 collections were made using 51 per cent more sustainable materials such as organic and recycled cotton, more sustainable wool and recycled polyester, an 82 per cent increase from 2020,” adds Hagman.

Tommy Hilfiger

In the 37 years since the founding of the brand, Tommy Hilfiger has become an exemplary business success. It is currently owned by PVH which also counts brands such as Calvin Klein, Van Heusen and Arrow within its portfolio. Overall, PVH has more than 40,000 associates operating in more than 40 countries and has reported $9.9bn in annual revenues as of 2019. Tommy Hilfiger meanwhile has more than 16,000 employees globally, and 2020 global retail sales of $6.9bn.

In Q3 2021, Tommy Hilfiger recorded revenues of $1.2bn, up 12 per cent over the corresponding period in 2020. It currently has over 2,000 stores globally, with an increasing focus on the GCC countries. In fact, in 2020, it opened six stores in the region, including four in Saudi Arabia and one each in Dubai and Kuwait.

The Tommy Hilfiger Store in Dubai opened in Dubai Mall last May, marking the brand’s first dedicated footwear and accessories concept in the GCC. Its new outpost in Kuwait opened in Kuwait City’s Assima Mall in September. “We currently have more than 50 Tommy Hilfiger stores across the GCC region, working with a franchise model and collaborating closely with our local partners to deliver our strategic ambitions. In 2021, we opened an office in Dubai. The Middle East and Africa (MEA+) regions present us with many growth opportunities. While it’s still relatively small, representing approximately 2 per cent of our Europe Middle East (EMEA) business, we see great growth potential,” says Hagman. Its partners in the region are the UAE-headquartered Apparel Group, led by Sima Ved and Nilesh Ved. Apparel Group operates Tommy Hilfiger stores across the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, as well as the e-commerce operations of the business within the region.

Of the six new stores opened in the region last year, notably, four were in Saudi. They included one each in Medina’s Rashid Mall, Jeddah’s Jeddah Park Mall, Riyadh’s Nakheel Mall and a 300-square-metre presence in Riyadh’s Granada Mall. “The retail section in Saudi Arabia is among the fastest growing in the world,” notes Hagman, adding, “We have exciting plans to open more stores across the GCC as well as continue to develop our e-commerce operations.”

E-commerce has played a significant role in Tommy’s business model, further accelerated by the pandemic. It’s one that Hagman as CEO has kept a close eye on even as its brick-and-mortar expansion plans remain firmly underway. “We increased our focus on our digital channels for consumer-facing and B2B. Prior to the pandemic, our Digital Showrooms around the world had revolutionised wholesale selling through fully digital experiences. As the pandemic escalated, we quickly shifted to accommodate remote appointments and introduced two new selling options: Virtual Showrooms and a B2B Webshop platform for customers to place seasonal orders remotely.

“Our brick-and-mortar retail spaces will continue to play an important role, and as we further integrate these spaces, they will become more connected to our own e-commerce channels or third-party online platforms,” says Hagman.

As part of the overall digital transformation strategy, and a move that feeds back into the sustainability agenda, is PVH’s 3D design technology. Last year, PVH decided to make its Stitch 3D platform available to everyone, including its competitors – at a price – to get more of its peers to grow their 3D design capabilities. “3D design technology has major advantages for the business and has the potential to create a more circular and sustainable system. Through Stitch, our 3D design hub, we have developed a tech-based ecosystem that facilitates a fully digital product-creation workflow. To further digitalise the fashion industry, digital product creation sits at the core while simultaneously enabling the industry to become overall more sustainable,” says Hagman.

Tommy Hilfiger

“As a company, we haven’t done enough yet, but we are determined to do better,” Hagman admits about Tommy Hilfiger’s actions on diversity and inclusivity. It’s a rare admission for business leaders in the fashion industry to make, though Hagman – like the 70-year-old eponymous founder of the brand, the New York state-bornTommy Hilfiger himself – takes the bull by the horns on the subject. “It is my personal priority and commitment to increase the representation of black, indigenous, people of colour (BIPOC), female and other under-represented groups in all PVH Europe and Tommy Hilfiger global leadership positions. Last year, we launched the People’s Place Program to advance the representation of BIPOC within the fashion and creative industries; and two of the four pillars of our ambitious Make it Possible programme are devoted to achieving our inclusivity goals,” says Hagman.

Last month, the two winners of the third edition of the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge contest that provides BIPOC entrepreneurs with a chance to win EUR100,000 in funding and the opportunity to scale their ideas with experts at PVH were announced. This year’s winners are Rwandan eco-friendly shoe brand, Uzuri K&Y which uses recycled car tires from sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Lalaland, a Netherlands-based platform that uses AI to generate synthetic models of different ages, ethnicities, and sizes, in more than 35 poses.

Technology will play a crucial role in the future of Tommy Hilfiger and Hagman will have to determine that direction and pace. Hagman provides a peek into how that technology would play a role in the brand’s future. “We envision a world where the digital and physical worlds will further merge over time. Everyone is talking about the Metaverse, and while it is still largely undefined, it is real. It focuses on making digital twins of products or uniquely digital-only pieces. For us, this may mean virtual copies of our stores and showrooms or hosting virtual experiences in stores and physical experiences in virtual worlds. Stores will take on a new role as an inter-connector, enabling us to expand the brand experience.”

Ultimately, Hagman is aware that technology can only move as far forward and as quickly as the brand’s customers dictate. “While there are many opportunities to act on, one thing is clear: we must advance innovation if we want to meet our consumers exactly where they are,” says Hagman. Determining where those customers stand is perhaps at the top of the agenda for the CEO.

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