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The historic Venice trestle sign lit the way to the beach in Los Angeles for decades, though tonight the twinkling letters of its restored version were competing with an even bigger and brighter sign, one that spelled out the word Tommyland. It’s one of the first times that Tommy Hilfiger has undertaken a production of this kind outside of New York Fashion Week, and his latest project comes around six months after the brand’s first collaborative effort with Gigi Hadid at South Street Seaport in Manhattan. There was a similar carnival atmosphere at the event today—amusement park rides, food vendors—though certain aspects were totally specific to the kooky scene that is Venice Beach—unicyclists, flame throwers, and a circle of long-haired drummers huddled together on Mexican blankets. In fact the young eager shoppers who streamed in through the gates in cutoff jeans, fedoras, and ankle boots looked like they’d just driven in from a weekend at Coachella.
It’s a familiar scene for Hilfiger’s codesigner Hadid, who grew up near the beach. “I was thinking about Santa Monica Pier, and what I might wear for a day at the amusement park and the candy shop,” the supermodel said backstage before the show. “Maybe it’s boyfriend jeans, or an oversize shirt you borrowed from your uncle and chopped into a crop top. The idea was that it could have been made with family and friends.” All of Hadid’s nearest and dearest were in attendance: Her mother Yolanda and brother Anwar sat front row, while Bella Hadid walked the runway right after Gigi opened the show dressed in low-slung leather biker pants, cowboy boots, a sporty patchwork jacket, and a crop top that revealed her perfectly sculpted midriff.
That first look hit on most of the major Hilfiger tropes that played out in the collection: throwback ’90s sportswear, Western grit, and all-American denim with a dash of hippie handwork thrown in for good measure. A vintage pair of patchworked Hilfiger jeans that the designer had worked on with his siblings was retrieved from the archives and reimagined with the social media generation in mind—think: emoji patches in place of peace signs—and it’s those infinitely Instagrammable pieces that stood out the most today. Even chinos, the linchpin of a classic preppy wardrobe, were reimagined with a young, cool customer in mind, and came with quirky hand-embroidery that would certainly make for a pretty picture. Of course it wouldn’t be a Tommy show without the star-spangled banner in the mix, and that all-American motif was chopped and twisted in every way imaginable, ranging from the most literal American flag cardigans to boho dresses spliced with a red-white-and-blue motif.
Whether you’re much of a festival-lover or not, the idea of a show that’s open to all has implications that resonate beyond the runway in tumultuous political times such as these. Hadid underscored the importance of the show being welcoming, “because a lot of the time fashion has been very exclusive.” Though the consumer-facing, see-now-buy-now format might have disrupted the fashion system, it has leveled the playing field for consumers who are invited to enjoy the experience and all the perks that come with life on the front row, including the luxury of leaving the show with the same clothes that the supermodels wore on the runway. There were certainly girls in the crowd who bagged the charming patterned patchwork maxi dress that Gigi wore to close the show. Though it would be tough for anyone to re-create her glamorous exit tonight—she was seen jumping into the back of Lady Gaga’s white Rolls-Royce in her maxi dress with a huge bouquet of yellow roses in her hand.