Samantha Critchell June 14, 2012
Honoured ... Tommy Hilfiger with Vogue's Anna Wintour. Photo: Getty Images
WHEN you wake up as Tommy Hilfiger, the day's possibilities are almost endless.
Perhaps you'll be jetting off to Paris or Hong Kong on business, or to the island of Mustique for pleasure. Really, if Hilfiger wanted to, he could just sit in his luxurious apartment at the Plaza Hotel overlooking New York's Central Park, arranging dozens of pencils on his desk.
That's not the Hilfiger way, though. He likes to work. He wants to work.
The American designer has been in the fashion business for more than 40 years, starting at a small denim shop in New York and now at the helm of a brand that's one of the most recognisable in the world.
Last week his peers at the Council of Fashion Designers of America honoured him with a lifetime achievement award but, like previous winners Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors, the designer maintains he feels a little young for the accolade.
''I thought 'lifetime achievement' was for your 70s,'' he says.
Yes, he is 61, but has a lot more to do. Hilfiger ended his acceptance speech in front of a crowd that included actors Jessica Chastain and Kyra Sedgwick, American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, and designer Donna Karan, with the words, ''Stay tuned''.
On the day of the CFDA awards, I checked in with Hilfiger several times to get a sense of what it's like to live in his shoes (black loafers, no socks).
''In the shower this morning, I did think, 'Do I pinch myself?''' he says moments after arriving in his chauffeur-driven Bentley at the morning rehearsal of the awards ceremony at the Lincoln Centre.
He makes his way through the labyrinth underneath the stage to catch Diane von Furstenberg, president of the CFDA, as she's wrapping up her own practice session.
After a double-cheek kiss, Hilfiger gets a sneak peek at what will be included in his award montage and the CFDA 50th anniversary display. It has to be, absolutely must be, a navy blazer, a show producer says, and the team is looking for an example of his signature madras prints.
Hilfiger wants to know if he can hear a preview of the speech that Wintour will give. That's a partial yes: Wintour's stand-in reads a few lines from the teleprompter, but the rest will be kept as a surprise.
Hilfiger goes to the podium afterwards and makes sure that among all the friends and family members he acknowledges, he also thanks his customers. Hilfiger has caught flak sometimes for having a more commercial eye than the industry's pure artistes, but not many of them have that idling Bentley outside.
Next on the agenda are interviews with foreign reporters at his Fifth Avenue store, a meeting with his corporate backers at Phillips-Van Heusen Corp, a consultation with his design team on collections for September's New York Fashion Week, and a 45-minute catch-up with his son, who is visiting from California.
He goes back to the Plaza apartment to put on his tux. He points out the congratulatory peonies sent to him by Kors. Equally lovely flowers from Narciso Rodriguez are in the other room. ''The flowers are very nice gestures,'' he says.
Hilfiger gets up again when his wife, Dee, comes down their grand carpeted staircase in an orange jumpsuit. She jokes that she chose the bright colour so he'll be able to find her when he looks out from the stage.
But Hilfiger did almost miss the red carpet. He was one of the last arrivals. For all his celebrity and efficiency, not even Hilfiger can control traffic.
''I must have been asked 12 times if I am nervous. I'm excited, I'm humbled, I'm honoured, but I don't think nervous. Should I be nervous?'' he says just before he gets inside.
Hilfiger indulges the last few photographers outside the door. He grins.
''This is a wonderful moment in time, but it could be dangerous to think this is the ultimate moment,'' he says. ''It is a great nod of respect, but I have to get back to work.''