Scent of a bestseller

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Indy Lifestyle Online
By mid-September, Tommy, the most talked about fragrance since CK One, will be on sale at a department store near you. The Tommy in question is Tommy Hilfiger, the 44-year-old New York designer who has infiltrated the wardrobes of American men, from office workers to LA home boys with his sportswear, shirts, baseball caps and underwear.

Like the fragrance and it's bold packaging, Hilfiger's clothes are far from subtle. You need only look at the underwear, with the red, white and blue flag and the bold signature emblazoned all over the elasticated waist band, and you get the message. The designer's clothes are their own best form of advertising. Wear a Tommy T-shirt and you will sell the brand wherever you go. The result? In the US, Hilfiger's sales hit almost $400m last year.

Tommy - the new American fragrance, as it is being tagged (as though it is already part of the American Dream along with cherry pie) - has been on sale at Harvey Nichols since 15 August. It has hit sales targets, and has appealed to both men and women, although it is primarily a men's fragrance (Tommy Girl has yet to cross the Atlantic). But it is the nationwide sales that will be the real test. And, for Hilfiger's sake, it needs to be a big success as he plans to open a flagship store in London in the next year, as well as launching his label Tommy Girl at London Fashion Week in October.

Harvey Nichols is already preparing for frenzied sales when the menswear line arrives at the store next spring. Hilfiger plans to attack the UK, and he means business. Everything he does is larger than life, including his billboards in New York's Times Square which are so huge you don't even notice them.

Timing is everything with the launch of a brand. In the US, Hilfiger has been exploding since its birth in 1989, where it has provided clothes that are somewhere between The Gap and Ralph Lauren. It is incredible to think that a brand that has become a household name in America is still not available in the UK - apart from the odd rip-off, that is.

While a few years ago, the closely guarded fashion fraternity of New York sneered at Hilfiger's logo crazed sportswear, they are now taking him seriously. He owns virtually a whole sky scraper in mid-town Manhattan and his advertising revenue alone is worth too much to dismiss him. Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren have had to sit up and take notice. Last year at America's Fashion Oscars, the Council of Fashion Designers of America awarded Hilfiger the award for Menswear Designer of the Year.

So now is the time to become acquainted with Mr Hilfiger, or at least to have a sniff at the brand. Responses of the Independent guinea pigs ranged from "What's that? Smelling salts?" to "It's a bit fierce." Hilfiger will conquer this country swiftly and painlessly (depending on how you like the fragrance) and mark my words: by next summer, chances are the red, white and blue Hilfiger flag will be flying somewhere in your wardrobe.

Tommy is available at Harvey Nichols, London SW1, until 14 September when it will be available at branches of Boots, and all major department stores. The Eau de Cologne Spray (50ml) costs pounds 22.

TAMSIN BLANCHARD

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