A hectic scene backstage at a fashion show for a designer of note isn’t at all surprising. Seeing frazzled assistants, model handlers and coordinators is expected. The stunner behind the curtains at Tommy Hilfiger’s Spring/Summer 2017 Fashion Show on Wednesday (Feb. 8), however, is how chill and cheerful everyone is.
Los Angeles singer Anderson Paak‘s groovy single “Come Down” blasts as makeup artists apply their skills to women who hardly need it. And that’s exactly the easy feel Hilfiger intended on for this evening, set in Venice Beach, whose carnival-lite locale has been converted into “Tommy Land.”
Easing his hands into his khakis, a relaxed Hilfiger tells Billboard that this second iteration of his Tommy x Gigi line embodies “Southern California cool. It’s really inspired by Gigi [Hadid], who collaborated with me and is from Southern California. This is a music fashion festival. It’s not just about the fashion. It’s always been about the connection.” The models, in jeans and flip-flops, bop along to the jams as their nails are painted and the clock ticks towards their 5:30 p.m. showtime.
Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie cruises through for air kisses and hellos arm-in-arm with Hadid. She’ll later perform a set of her smashes in a shimmering aqua blue motorcycle jacket and hot pants.
Not far off, runway-ready buddies Hailey Baldwin and Alanna Arrington dance in red and white Tommy swimwear to D.R.A.M. and Lil Yachty‘s party-starter “Broccoli.” Walking in her first Hilfiger show today, Arrington is far from nervous. Her biggest hope at the moment is that Snoop Dogg comes through the speakers next. “‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ brings the mood up!” she says. Baldwin’s in the mood for Rihanna. Anything from the Bajan songstress will do, new or old. “I’m really with ‘Work,’ Baldwin says through a smile. “And ‘Umbrella’ still has a special place in my soul.”
Still in her robe, Portuguese model Sara Sampaio floats by. It’s her third time walking a Hilfiger runway. “It’s one of the brands that supported me from the beginning,” Sampaio says. The Cold War Kids‘ “First” is the song she turns on to get herself amped. “When I play it, it gives me confidence. It makes you feel powerful. It has a really strong and inspiring beat.”
It’s pretty easy to spot the difference between a newer model and a vet, but the tell isn’t in their faces; it’s what they’re doing during their downtime. Harrington literally skips around with fellow youngin’ Yasmin Wijnaldum. They’re both more than willing to field questions from an obnoxious TV crew asking them to make an assortment of faces. “What’s your scared one?” “Now give us your ‘I’m so surprised!'”
Meanwhile Joan Smalls, who is gracious and all smiles, is clearly not about that nonsense. Sidestepping the shenanigans, she tells Billboard why she loves Tommy so much. “He embodies the all-American girl,” she says. “And his shows are always uplifting. It’s never taken too seriously and it’s all about being yourself. He’s embracing California and I think that’s super cool—especially doing it outdoors.”
And in contrast to others who are bumping hype tracks before the show, Smalls listens to mellow Atlanta native 6lack‘s “Free.” “It’s the melody and the vibe of the instruments that sounds really cool and comforting. It chills you out.”
When showtime arrives, stars line the front row. Lady Gaga’s flanked by photographers as she finds her way to prime viewing real estate. Music exec and Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun is chairs away. “He’s always found a way to create the next,” Braun says. “I’m friends with Tommy. I have the pleasure of not only knowing the brand, but knowing the man. The brand is incredible. The man is even better.”
As songs like Bruno Mars “24K Magic” and Drake‘s “One Dance” rumble, Hadid, in a printed bohemian dress, strolls down the strip dividing the audience. Smalls tosses on a ’90s-baggy red, black and yellow sweatshirt that falls to her knees. Crop tops and mini skirts follow. And in a flash, it’s over. All the pieces in the show are currently available for purchase. Tommy’s been an early adopter of the runway-to-stores movement, scrapping the half-year lag that most fashion houses still slug with.
Now in a blue chambray shirt, Hilfiger makes his way down the aisle with Hadid. He stops only twice to hug Gaga and then to blow kisses in the direction of Kris Jenner.
Earlier, Jenner told Billboard that Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” would probably be the best song to pair with Hilfiger events. “Because Tommy’s so inclusive,” she explained. “Even though his brand is worldwide, he manages to pull off looks everyone wants to be seen in and wear and be comfortable in. So it’s a family vibe for me. My whole family is wearing Tommy Hilfiger!”
Baldwin said that a Hilfiger show is “definitely one of the most fun during fashion week.” Her opinion seems to have rung true. Fergie is on stage dancing her tail off to “M.I.L.F.” Food trucks are giving away tasty delights. And Tommy Hilfiger, the man, is beaming.
The song Tommy said is his favorite at the moment is worth noting, especially because of how he delivered it. He paused, and laughed as if he knew how silly what he was about to do and say would be. Then Hilfiger let loose: “Caaaalifornia loooove,” he sang, stretching the auto-tuned opening lines of 2Pac and Dr. Dre’s 1995 smash “California Love” as best he could. He’s 65, knows how to party and, apparently, is going to keep on rocking for years to come.