‘If you want to be the captain, you can be the fucking captain!’ says Gigi Hadid, giving one slender leg an enthusiastic slap. We’re sitting in a New York hotel room discussing the ‘girl power sailor’ theme of her very first design gig – a 36-piece capsule collection with Tommy Hilfiger.
She’s wearing two of the items as we speak: a pair of high-waisted, indigo-denim flares with tiny anchors on the buttons, and a viscose navy-and-white striped top, the long sleeves stretched over her manicured hands like fingerless gloves. ‘We even made a captain’s hat, too!’ she adds with a grin.
The rest of the collection (hat included) is hanging on a rail just outside the door. There’s a round-neck navy sweater with a large anchor and rope motif printed on it – pleasingly 80s – a belted military coat with a ‘Hilfiger-Hadid’ badge on the lapel, and the sort of oversized cream fisherman’s sweater you could bury yourself in on a particularly cold morning.
Gone are the days when supermodels were lofty clothes horses, who earned their crust solely on catwalks and in campaigns. In the past few years, LA-born Gigi Hadid (and her pal Kendall Jenner, who she met in 2014) have redefined the role, opening themselves up to their huge online following and trading as much on their personalities and ‘girls before bros’ friendships as their looks. These days, the modelling just feels like the base layer.
‘Kendall never tries too hard,’ Hadid says of her best friend now. ‘She never looks uncomfortable in what she’s wearing. I think that’s why we get along so well, because even outside of our style that’s our personalities, we’re just very easy-going.’
The Tommy x Gigi collaboration
For Gigi Hadid, designing her own collection was more a question of when rather than if, and Hilfiger felt like the obvious choice. The Hadid and Hilfiger families have been friends since the model was little (Hadid’s mum, Yolanda, found her own fame as one of the Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills), and she and her sister Bella led the runway charge for his beach-themed SS16 show last year in swimsuits and primary-coloured bucket hats.
Hilfiger recalls witnessing Hadid morph from family friend into one of the most in-demand supermodels in the world. ‘I’d known her family for a long time and when she was first put forward, I was like, “Are you crazy? Of course we should do something together, she’s beautiful!” We put her on the runway and she received more photographs than anyone ever, so that was very interesting.’
The idea of designing ‘a few pieces’ together quickly swelled to an entire collection. ‘She came in with tear sheets and ideas, and sent some pictures – Pinterest photos,’ says Hilfiger. ‘And she was wearing some stylish clothes herself – an oversized bomber, a pair of really cool sneakers... very nonchalant.’
Scheduled one-hour design sessions at Hilfiger HQ easily stretched to seven or eight hours. ‘I would just draw, or start patching things, and then I’d think, “Oh shit, I have to actually ask them if I can do this,”’ says Hadid. ‘Then I’d turn around and they’d tell me, “We love it!” So I’d go, “Alright, cool. I’m just gonna keep doing this.”’
And while Hadid brought her many mood boards of fresh ideas to the table, Hilfiger – with his 30 years of design experience – provided the guidance. ‘We never butted heads in our design process, which is good,’ recalls Hadid. ‘And he also gave me so much freedom. He was more like the supervisor, and I wanted to make him proud.’
Perhaps in keeping with the new, media-savvy see-it-buy-it generation of which Gigi Hadid is a part, for the first time ever the Tommy x Gigi collection – along with the Tommy Hilfiger main line – will be available to buy on the day it’s unveiled to the press and public, rather than six months later. ‘We’ve been talking about doing it for a very long time,’ says Hilfiger. ‘And it got to the point where we said we should just do it.’
Hadid says she’ll be ordering the lot. ‘If [people] don’t see me wearing the collection on the street when it comes out, there’s a problem. I had to make every piece wearable, and think about my fans’ and friends’ styles... those are the girls who inspire me, so I tried to design with every one of them in mind.’
Tommy x Gigi collection is in stores now (tommy.com; 020 3144 0900)
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