Tommy Hilfiger, Elmira College partner to create Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Business School

Local News

ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Elmira College and Elmira native Tommy Hilfiger have announced a new partnership to form the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Business School.

Scheduled to begin in Fall 2021, the new program will offer a concentration and minor in fashion marketing and fashion merchandising.

“We thought it would be a great opportunity for everyone involved, particularly students,” Hilfiger told 18 News.

Elmira College describes the program as a “chance to follow in Hilfiger’s footsteps while exploring fashion business fundamentals and the latest market trends” with a “strategically designed curriculum and hands-on, out-of-the-classroom experiences.”

“We know we need to adjust to the changing needs of a global workplace, as well as student expectations of a comprehensive educational experience,” said Dr. Charles Lindsay, president of Elmira College. “Tomorrow’s workforce will be more complex than ever before. Programs and partnerships, like the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Business School, enables us to bridge a liberal arts education with professional studies and pave a path to success for our students. We are grateful to have the support of the Hilfiger family, and look forward to welcoming our first students to the program in the fall of 2021.”

Students within fashion merchandising will explore the merchandising needs of a marketplace through research, design, data collection and analysis. Fashion marketing will train students on how to research, collect and analyze data and develop marketing and communications strategies to launch brands in the marketplace.

Tommy Hilfiger Archives

“What happens with a lot of people who are going into the fashion business is that they go to a design school, but they don’t really learn about the business of fashion,” Hilfiger says. “This includes the merchandising and marketing of fashion, which is very important to learn, and if you have that knowledge, along with any kind of design experience, or any kind of even real experience, you’re way ahead of the game.”

Hilfiger says the program will bring guest lecturers from the fashion industry into Elmira and give students real-life experiences working in the industry by working in New York City and possibly Europe.

“I think if you take the classroom, along with the internship, and put that together the experience is remarkable. I would like students to know how it’s actually done in real life, because it’s very different from learning from a textbook… I think all of that is invaluable and all of that is something you cannot get at another college.”

Hilfiger noted it was important to him for students to learn not just about fashion, but the business side of the industry.

Tommy Hilfiger Archives

“Fashion business is possibly even more important than the actual design or creative part of it. Because, obviously, you can get that from freelance, you can buy the designs from services, but ultimately you would want a company with your own design team, your own marketing team, your own merchandising team, and these students will be able to graduate, move on to the industry and work within large companies or even medium-sized companies in New York City primarily, with big fashion businesses worldwide, most of the time, but in the merchandising and marketing areas.”

Those who complete the program at Elmira College will then have what Hilfiger calls “an entree” going into the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City in either a master’s or graduate program.

Joining Tommy in this program will be two of his siblings, Andy and Betsy.

“This will also be a Hilfiger family effort because my brother Andy has been working with me for many years… and my sister Betsy has worked with me for many years, even starting back with People’s Place.”

Hilfiger says his family and the school have been working together for about a year to create the program.

“Getting everyone together over COVID hasn’t been the easiest, but we really were very passionate about doing it. We’re all very excited about doing it and now it’s coming to fruition.”

“Guest lectures and internships through the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Business School will connect students with icons in the fashion industry,” added Andy Hilfiger. “That interaction gives students an opportunity not available in a classroom setting. It’s a chance to learn about, not only the daily operations of the fashion industry, but also the history, the people, and the deep connections it has to other industries, such as the music industry.”

Hilfiger says he’s proud of the work his team and Elmira College have put in to create the program for students in our area.

“I think they’ve done an incredible job, honored to be a part of it. The campus is not only beautiful but the student body is fantastic. I think the leadership, the professors, the dedication of the entire staff, is second to none. So I feel very fortunate to be connected.”

In addition to the new program, Hilfiger says there will be a museum on campus with archives from his career available for the public to view. When asked if that would be in an existing or future building on campus, Hilfiger said “to be announced, but we’re looking at different options now.”

Hilfiger says that since he has received the COVID-19 vaccine, he plans to return to Elmira later this year for the opening of Michael Houghton’s People’s Place gallery on Baldwin Street.

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