Tommy Hilfiger won’t have to travel far for his 2 p.m. appearance at the Miami Book Fair Sunday to discuss his book, “American Dreamer: My Life in Fashion & Business” (Ballantine). The designer is a semi local. Hilfiger has a home in town (with wife, handbag designer Dee Ocleppo), plus he recently plunked down $65 million for The Raleigh Hotel. We spoke to the 65-year-old style icon known for his wearably chic meets classic mens and womenswear about his brand, his writing process and why he would never be on reality TV.
Talk a little about the book.
‘American Dreamer’ is a personal memoir and a chronological history of the brand so I included everything possible, from when I was a young boy up growing up in upstate New York to today. I figured let me write it now, before I’m in my 80s and forget everything! It was definitely an emotional journey as it’s full of all sorts of incredible memories I hadn’t thought about until I started writing. There are some painful ones, too, like my divorce and going through money issues.
What is the overall message?
Never miss a local story.
I had a dream to build a global brand and the dream has actually come true. I talk a lot about how if you have a passion for something and work hard, never give up. Draw yourself to the right people and you can get there. I also wanted to give people a sneak peek of what goes on behind the curtain, how the fashion industry works. It’s like looking into the music business with a backstage pass at a concert.
You sold your label several years ago but are still the head designer. How has the brand evolved?
Everything is cyclical. What you may have seen comes back, but in a different way. Sometimes the logo is out there, sometimes it’s out of sight. Sometimes denim is dark, then it’s light. That’s what makes this business so exciting. We have to think what the customer wants next. When something is on trend, everyone wears it. Then the real fashion leaders don’t want to wear it any longer and we have to think about what’s next for them, which leads to a new style.
You’re hardly slowing down. What’s a typical day like for you?
I wake up. Do some exercise — running, biking, sometimes yoga. Then I take my son to school and go to business meetings, creative meetings, fashion shows, talk about advertising or the new style we’re coming out with. We throw ideas around.
What do you think of South Florida style?
I see a lot of lighter and brighter colors, for sure. Not a lot of black, like in New York. Maybe around Art Basel. I see a lot of skin. And the men are very casual.
What about your own wardrobe?
I keep it simple. If I think about what I’m putting on other people, I don’t want to be distracted. I’ve always been that way.
In 2005, you hosted the reality competition “The Cut.” Could you see yourself doing something like that again?
Personally, I really don’t want to be on a TV show, but I don’t mind if my clothes are seen on one [laughs]. I think that those type of shows are important to help the industry, without a doubt. If I were to do anything besides fashion, I am more interested in entertainment, art, movies.
What’s the biggest influence on what people are wearing these days?
Fashion is driven by social media. Back when we started we would not have known what to do with it. Now it’s very relevant.