A designer eager to be talked about can typically do one of three things. The first is to anticipate the cultural climate and hit upon something consumers want before they know they want it. The second is to manufacture a controversy. And the third is to mine the spirit and feed off it, often by aligning him or herself with a current celebrity phenomenon.
This is what Tommy Hilfiger is doing this week with the announcement of a new collaboration with the 20-year-old It girl, Gigi Hadid.
At first, Ms. Hadid was scheduled to become his brand’s new global ambassador, but Mr. Hilfiger has come to view that title as a boring descriptor, despite what the news release says.
“Global ambassadorships are a bit overused and not too exciting,” he said in a telephone interview. “We’re really doing something different. We’re creating a line called Gigi by Tommy Hilfiger, using her style, her sense, her social media presence as the top supermodel in the world today.”
Of course, some may see that pronouncement as something other than a self-evident truth, but the announcement represents yet another feather in the cap of a woman on the verge of serious fame.
Since January, Ms. Hadid has been on the covers of both V and W magazines. She has walked runways for Balmain, Marc Jacobs and Versace. Her Instagram account has more than 10 million followers. Although her sister Bella is known for late-night vehicular mishaps, Ms. Hadid has the poise of a budding leading lady, even if this one is still somewhat more likely to be photographed at a banquette with a former boy-band member than at the Kodak Theater during the Oscars.
Famous for being famous, Ms. Hadid is nevertheless well behaved enough not to be deemed offensive to the culture at large (or to big companies like Tommy Hilfiger and Maybelline, for whom she also shoots campaigns). Discussing her reasons for wanting to work with Tommy Hilfiger, she said, “I’m a big fan of the brand and the images that come out of it.”
She recently did a Victoria’s Secret show and just loved it. The staff “worked so hard,” she said. Everyone was “clapping” throughout. It was inspiring.
The word she uses with greatest frequency to discuss her fans (and anyone else to whom she wants to express gratitude) is “amazing.”
Ms. Hadid grew up in Southern California, where her father is the real estate investor Mohamed Hadid. Her mother is Yolanda Foster, a former model and cast member of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” who after their divorce in early aughts, married David Foster (the music producer behind Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”) and joined “The Real Housewives” cast. Mr. Foster had been married to Linda Thompson, whose former husband is now Caitlyn Jenner.
Ms. Hadid is close with the Jenners, Kendall and Kylie, their pictures blasted across social media and in the tabloids (although less for drama than for what they have worn here, there and everywhere). So it shouldn’t come as a shock she wound up as the face of a big American brand, particularly after she walked the runway for Mr. Hilfiger in February 2015, flaunting her serious curves.
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Mr. Hilfiger was impressed that Ms. Hadid was harnessing the power of social media to build her name and that she did not look like the emaciated models of yore.
“She’s not anorexic,” he said. “She’s a real woman.”
Afterward, he broached the idea of a larger collaboration, and she jumped at the chance. “I ended up staying an extra five hours the first day,” she said, discussing her time in the design studio. “I think they were surprised I was that into it.”
Her first capsule collection debuts next fall, and in tandem with it, Ms. Hadid will become the star of Mr. Hilfiger’s mainline fall campaign as well as those for his footwear, watches and new as-yet-untitled fragrance.
Recently, Ms. Hadid’s younger siblings, Bella and Anwar, entered the modeling business, too. This is one subject she is somewhat more forthcoming about. To put it bluntly, she’s not convinced that they take modeling as seriously as she does.
“My brother kind of does it to get new clothes,” she said.
“It’s not the hardest job in the world,” Ms. Hadid added of modeling, “but I do work hard.”
How could she not? There are rabid fans to satisfy, and she feels a responsibility to them.
“They’re there every day,” she said. “And the real hard-core fans put in a lot of work to maintain that connection. So it means a lot to me.”
They are, in a word, amazing.
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