Adaptive Fashion: Beazley Designs of the Year

Q&A - Tommy Hilfiger

The Design Museum speaks to leading fashion designer, Tommy Hilfiger, about the inspiration and design process behind his Adaptive collection, featured in Beazley Designs of the Year.


Q: What is your favourite piece from the collection and why?

A: I’m a big fan of the graphic pantsuit from our latest TommyXZendaya collection, which features one-handed closures and the softest ponte knit fabric. Runway-inspired and work-appropriate styles are things our customers have been asking for. With the fall collection being inspired by power dressing, it was the perfect opportunity to include a selection of adaptive styles.

Q: Adaptive clothing is often very medicinal and purposeful. How did you retain Tommy Hilfiger’s iconic all-American style, whilst also ensuring the garments remained practical?

A: Just like all of our collections, Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive starts with our classic, American cool style. Every piece has the same design ethos and quality as we offer everyone else. The bonus is discreet, truly functional modifications that make getting dressed less difficult and allows both children and adults with disabilities to feel great about themselves.

Q: Is it true you have also designed clothing for children with Autism too? What inspired you to do this, and what differences are there in the clothing?

A: I have first-hand experience with children with autism and getting dressed in the morning has been a big topic in our household forever. With Tommy Adaptive, we paid attention to the details and made sure everything is as sensory-friendly as possible. The fabrics we choose are soft, most labels are heat-pressed so there are no scratchy tags to contend with, seams are clean finished to avoid irritation and for our seated-wear styles, we removed the back pockets for maximum comfort. Also, this year we created a limited-edition T-shirt to benefit Autism Speaks, an organisation my wife Dee and I are both passionate supporters of. It features the artwork of a talented young man on the spectrum, though it’s only available on in the U.S.

**note: T-shirt will be available on in the U.S. only on November 1, 2019.

Q: The campaign has been endorsed by several athletes and influencers, and described as a “game-changer” by parents, what has been the general reaction to your collection? What has been your most memorable piece of feedback?

A: We’ve had some wonderful people wear the collection from model and activist Lauren Scruggs Kennedy, professional American football player Shaquem Griffin, snowboarding champ and “Dancing With the Stars” alum Amy Purdy, and IMG model and influencer Jillian Mercado.

I think one of the most memorable pieces of feedback we’ve gotten was from the 13-year old Goddaughter of one of our employees. She was injured as a toddler and as a result has limited use of her hands and arms. After trying on some pieces from our first collection, she told us that she would often get teased in the school locker room because she needed help putting her outfits on. With Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive, it was the first time she’d ever gotten dressed by herself. Having independence is so often taken for granted, so being able to provide that for our customers is a privilege.

It’s also worth noting how open and honest our Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive customers and focus groups are. We’ve gotten such incredible feedback about the products and suggestions that have really helped guide our design team so that each season is better and more inclusive than the last.

Q: Do you think the disability community are often misportrayed in campaigns? How do we overcome this, and move towards diversifying the fashion industry?

A: As a brand, we made a commitment to inclusivity, and we work very hard on our campaigns to make sure we’re representing the full range of the community fairly. That’s why it’s important to showcase different dressing challenges and situations. From people with limb differences, prosthetics and those who ride a wheelchair, to caregivers and people with hidden disabilities or limited dexterity. Fashion is about empowering everybody.

Related exhibition

Beazley Designs of the Year 2019

Discover the most innovative designs across fashion, architecture, digital, transport, product and graphic design from the past 12 months, as nominated by design experts from around the world.