Lewis Hamilton and Tommy Hilfiger talk to us exclusively about their latest collaboration
By Zak Maoui
It’s been a good week for Tommy Hilfiger. Not only did he present his latest womenswear collection with Euphoria star Zendaya (which was met with rapturous applause), but last night former GQ cover star Lewis Hamilton and the American design legend kicked off Milan Fashion Week with driving force. Taking over the Società Del Giardino, the pair presented the third instalment of their creative partnership.
The pair were joined by more than 500 guests, including Johannes Huebl, Neels Visser, Lucky Blue Smith and Pusha T, who gave a surprise performance. “Milan’s historic architecture fused with the city’s young and dynamic energy really captured the spirit of my collaboration with Lewis this season,” said Hilfiger.
Joining two polarised design schools – namely Hilfiger’s prepped-up American spirit and Hamilton’s more streetwear-focused aesthetic – the collection is a bright, bold and brilliant menswear mishmash. Think functional tailoring and wardrobe essentials you’re used to seeing from Hilfiger, but with a distinctive street edge by way of oversized hoodies (emblazoned with the LH logo), Matrix shades and chunky trainers.
“This season is all about the clashing of two distinct worlds: Tommy’s classic American sportswear DNA and my modern streetwear style,” said Lewis Hamilton. “The Fall 2019 Tommy x Lewis collection truly blends our two creative points of view. It has been another exciting and inspiring adventure and it felt surreal to present the outcome during this amazing evening in Milan.”
We spoke exclusively to Lewis Hamilton and Tommy Hilfiger about the collection, available to buy now at tommy.com, and their inspirations.
GQ: Why do you think your partnership is such a success?
Tommy Hilfiger: Because both our last names begin with H. I think it is successful because Lewis engaged in a very serious way. A designer could do a collaboration and not have any effort from the partner other than getting great photos as a representative of the brand. But that is not the way I work. Lewis actually came in and created this line without me.
So how much input do you have in it, Lewis?
Lewis Hamilton: I am a part of everything. From shows, to the styling of the shows and the music that is selected, even who models. I’m not a control freak, but I just like to be a part of everything. I am trying to learn and naturally you become a creative character, with all these great people I get to work with. But if I don’t give them my view of things then the collection won’t go the way that I have envisioned it. Tommy and his team have just been incredible, so I can be hands-on with everything, down to the finest details, all the colours, fabrics and the silhouettes. It has really been a huge push and I have spent so much time on it.
How do you manage your time?
LH: All the other sportsmen and women have been saying, “How did the Tommy thing happen? Connect me with Tommy.” It is very hard to say and do, because I never do anything halfhearted. I am 100 per cent involved and I am going to do it all the way. To then get this right is a lot of work and you can’t do it alone. It was a great team and we really gelled.
Did you always want to get into fashion, as well as sport?
LH: Well, I started going to shows in my early twenties and when I was in my first team I was never exposed to it and I never really had a lot of time with the fashion side of things. But when I joined this new team I wanted to make the time so I could go and do this. Look at athletes. When they stop their career they have focused so much on that that they haven’t prepared for what’s after. So for the last six years I started to figure out what else I was into and I went to my first show and it blew me away and I kind of caught the bug. So I was going to New York to Paris, to men’s and women’s fashion shows, taking pictures and meeting all these designers, like Virgil Abloh and Kim Jones. And then Tommy and I kept bumping into each other, and I saw what they did with Gigi Hadid and I thought what an incredible opportunity.
So the partnership was completely organic?
TH: Yes, totally. I have always loved Formula One and racing and I was watching Lewis from afar and when I met him I realised that not only did he look cool but he was really into fashion. And when I expressed interest, at first he didn’t believe me, and then I asked him again if he would be interested and I think it was more believable and then I think he realised it was serious. I realised he was serious because he came back to me and said, “There is also a good opportunity to sponsor the team.” And I thought that was fantastic, where I could do something with the team and Lewis at the same time.
But, what I didn’t really realise was how engaged he is and I had no idea he was going to come to every single design meeting fully loaded, fully equipped to choose fabrics, choose colours, choose zippers, choose buttons and even the logo. It was back and forth, back and forth, because he is a perfectionist and I love that. I love the fact that he is obsessed. It really makes the difference.
What would you say is the most challenging thing with the collaboration?
LH: I didn’t go to school to study fashion and I have probably never spoken about it before, but growing up I was quite a shy person and then racing began. When you are racing you have a helmet on. You are in a secluded space. I can hide. It wasn’t until I started going to these shows that I really started to discover myself. Fashion has made me open up more than racing. I started to meet people from all walks of life and it really inspired me to grow within myself and discover how I want to present myself and dress myself, that whole cycle.
The biggest challenge was arriving, I didn’t know what to expect when I first went to our meetings. I didn’t know if they would be like, “No way,” with all the bags I turned up with and all the different samples and pitches. It really was an overload. There was so much to learn. But the thing is, in my mind I feel like I can do most things by myself, the way I have in my career. There are fashion designers out there being successful like Tommy… I mean, Tommy has been doing it for 35 years. It takes a long time to master your craft and I am trying to do it at hyper speed so I can learn as much as I can. I know that Tommy Hilfiger is going to have to take on another collaborator, so I want to absorb as much as I can of this experience. The most difficult thing is the timing, knowing it is 12 months in advance, what fabrics can work, how much fabrics you have to have, what works with what. That has been a real challenge.
Who are your style icons?
LH: Pharrell Williams.
TH: I think David Bowie. I just think that he is very chameleon-like and he evolved from being this glam-punk rock star to a very sophisticated gentleman over the years, but always with a real found sense of cool.