Nineties era fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger is set to launch a new podcast on April 20th, highlighting the legacies and contributory threads Black people have woven into the greater fabric of American style and culture. “The Invisible Seam: Unsung Stories of Black Culture and Fashion” will be released as a limited five part weekly series interviewing fashion historians, designers, stylists, curators, academics, and other expert guests.
Such experts include Black designers Jeffrey Banks and Romeo Hunte, trademarked image architect Law Roach–who’s credited for turning Zendaya from a Disney darling to a red carpet diva, celebrity stylist Ade Samuel, and costume designer Ceci, whose name you may not recall, but whose work you’ve undoubtedly seen for decades, from Sister Sister to Mixed-ish, and a host of others.
“We are all responsible in shaping a future that is truly equitable for BIPOC creatives,” said Tommy Hilfiger. “It’s incredibly meaningful that some of the most notable voices in fashion have come together to bring this podcast to life. It’s a necessary step to acknowledge, recognize, share and celebrate Black contributions in defining modern fashion and culture.”
Now unless you’ve done your digging, (and we mean deep digging), you may be wondering why Tommy Hilfiger now seems to have such an investment into the Black community, particularly if you recall a little rumor that got started back some 25 years ago. Let’s take it back for a minute.
Around 1996, an email began circulating that Tommy Hilfiger was a big ‘ol racist. Black people were immediately turned off by the brand and began boycotting it, considering it was literally built on the backs (and fronts)of some of our favorite people. Black music stars from Aaliyah to Snoop, Destiny’s Child to Nas, even the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson were photographed wearing the brand throughout the earlier half of the decade, causing a frenzy for the clothing and driving sales through the roof.
Once the “news” came out, reportedly stating that Hilfiger had been quoted in several interviews by comments such as “If I had known that African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians would buy my clothes, I would not have made them so nice.” The rumor even went as far to claim that the designer doubled down on the Oprah Winfrey show when she asked him about the statement directly. He supposedly confirmed on air that he did indeed make these statements, and that Winfrey immediately asked him to leave the show. This rumor within a rumor was later cleared when Hilfiger appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2007–for the very first time.
“Tommy, in the 21 years that we’ve been on the air, have you ever been on the show?,” Winfrey asked Hilfiger. “Unfortunately, not,” the designer replied.
No one knows where the rumors started, but there has never been any proof to surface from any of the publications the designer was reportedly quoted by. Hilfiger has continued to deny these allegations over the years, insisting that his brand has always been and will forever remain for all people. However, Black people continue to distrust his efforts. While we continue to see white billionaires making their public Black Lives Matter statements and launching initiatives to support the Black community, it’s hard to decipher who is genuinely for the culture, and who’s pushing for that diversity clout. Tell us, will you be giving Hilfiger’s new podcast a listen?