Tommy Hilfiger and Romeo Hunte on Mentorship and Designing Together

Tommy Hilfiger and Romeo Hunte on Mentorship and Designing Together

For the past few years, some of Tommy Hilfiger's flashiest moments have come from buzzy collaborations with A-list talent, including Gigi Hadid, Zendaya and Lewis Hamilton. These collections were hyped up through mega runway show spectacles and celebrity front rows, each interpreting Hilfiger's classic Americana codes for a new generation.

But now, the celebrated designer is teaming up with a lesser known name yet once who actually has years of formal design experience: Romeo Hunte, the Brooklyn-born designer and owner of his namesake label known for its statement outerwear and transitional street pieces. (Beyoncé, Michelle Obama and Hailey Bieber have all been spotted in the brand.)

TommyXRomeo, which is out now, is a comprehensive capsule of ready-to-wear and accessories full of very bright colors, stripes and functional, multi-purpose gear. It's a reinterpretation of Hilfigerarchives using Hunte's signature deconstruction techniques to remix and classic pieces like the trench coat with sailing jacket color-blocking or clashed with a leather biker jacket.

"I'm really proud of our capsule, it's truly a meeting point of our two worlds," Hilfiger said in a statement. "Together we've really focused on passing the mic to the next generation of BIPOC creatives and thought leaders to increase representation and amplify their talent globally. Through the People's Place Program, we want to give them a true platform to shine."

Below, Hilfiger and Hunte expand on their new collaboration, mentorship, inclusivity and the ongoing People's Place Program.

How did you two first connect?

Tommy Hilfiger: Over five years ago, a mutual friend introduced us. I was very impressed with Romeo. He showed me his collection, he was wearing something really cool, this buffalo plaid Poncho, And, you know, he was asking me some questions. So, sort of organically, I became his mentor and we've been working together for all of this time. And when we launched the People's Place program, I thought it would be very cool to have Romeo become a part of it. He was second, Indya Moore was first. We had actually done a collaboration before this, but never really announced it. This is really global.

Romeo, what do you remember about those initial meetings and conversations with Tommy? And also what kind of influence has he had in your growing up as a designer.

Romeo Hunte: One thing I could never forget is the meeting, walking through my women's collection at that time, it was everything from separate to outerwear. Tommy, from the first time we met, the first thing that he noticed was my buffalo check poncho. One piece of advice that always sticks with me is building and being strong and having a strong point of view and also building a logo. I've built an amazing logo that kind of ties into the brand's ethos. I think organically the men's collection all kind of came about. There was a demand, there were a lot of athletes that were DMing. The poncho was the first piece that was a a unisex piece.

What have you enjoyed most about mentoring Romeo but also watching him develop and grow as a brand over the years?

Tommy: He reminded me of myself when I was starting out and started with nothing. He is very resourceful. He actually listens to my advice and he is relentless. He has a work ethic that is very impressive. I know he has the dream and the goal as a North Star, so I think that he will get there. I think that this is almost proof that he does have real talent. And I think that this talent will only grow and develop and evolve over time. So I'm really proud and happy to have mentored him and continue to mentor him. But I think he's a true talent. Hats off to Romeo,

What are some main things that you took away from this experience?

Romeo: I think the message is all about inclusion, and also, you know, giving underrepresented creatives a platform. It's also making a change in the fashion industry. Not just that, I think it is also, you know, how can I inspire? How can I inspire the next Romeo that's coming up? How can I have an impact on the world of expressing myself through fashion and art, pop culture, I think those are things that Tommy always believed in, and I feel like now it's just all about really passing that baton. And, you know, giving me this platform to actually have a voice to be heard and see at the table. And I think that's just key. I think that's something that all brands should have. It's also inspiring other designers to do the same thing.

How did the idea for the People's Place program come about?

Tommy: When I was 18 years old, I opened my first store called People's Place, selling fashion. And I wanted to call it People's Place because I wanted it to be the place for the people. And I really never really launched that name, other than through just cafes, or coffee shops in our stores internationally but I thought this is a perfect time to launch it as a program, headed up by Randy Cousin (Senior Vice President of Product Concept and the People's Place Program) who is doing all these collaborations for the Tommy Hilfiger company, under the People's Place banner, but it's really unlocking doors for a group of talented people who are unrepresented, and have not normally had the opportunities that others have had.

What are some key pieces from the collection you're particularly excited about?

Romeo: The puffer coat inspires me in a way that it takes me back to my childhood in high school. I grew up in Brooklyn. I used to beg my mother to get me a dope puffer and Tommy was a go-to. It had this gloss dope look to it. I wanted to take from that and evolve that and just kind of make it flexible, seasonless. So the cool thing about this puffer is that you can remove the sleeves, so you can wear this pre-spring, spring, then go through fall, winter. It's a pop of color, but I feel like it goes back to like Tommy's pop of color in the 90s. When you see the lookbook images, it reminds me of picture day. It just reminds me of the day that everyone in my class or in school will get the freshest or the flyest outfit and pull up and just take a dope photo that either it will hit the yearbook or it will have an impact on the hallway where you walkin' through and you're fresh.

Photos courtesy of Tommy Hilfiger