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Travel
November 01, 2014

Tommy’s New York

It is 10 years since Tommy Hilfiger, one of the first International apparel labels, came to India. Even as the brand looks forward to celebrating an amazing decade, the designer writes about his love for New York and his cherished haunts

New York City is one of the most inspiring places in the world. It’s iconic, eclectic, captivating and has a constant buzz of energy and creativity. I’ve lived in the city for over 35 years, and it continues to inspire me every single day – from the people and incredible culture to the architecture, museums, theatre and concerts.

I was born and raised in Elmira, a small town in upstate New York, but I was constantly looking outside of Elmira for things that inspired me – especially the cool, big city fashion in Manhattan. My friends and I would drive to New York City to go shopping, and it led to us starting our first business: we pooled together $150 to buy 20 pairs of bell-bottom blue jeans and sold them to our friends back in Elmira from the trunk of my Volkswagen Beatle. When I decided to pursue a career in fashion design in the late ’70s, moving to New York City was an easy decision for me as it was the centre of the industry. It was here that I founded my namesake brand in 1985, and since then the city has always remained a central part of our brand heritage and DNA.

When friends and family visit us in Manhattan, I love to show visitors the real New York from a local’s perspective. New York is filled with some of the world’s best museums, shopping locations and restaurants so there’s never a shortage of things going on. Some of the most creative artists, musicians, designers and entertainers in the world call New York home, and one of the best parts of living here is being able to take advantage of all the exciting things happening every day. After all, it’s the city that never sleeps!

I like to start my days in Central Park – it’s the most quintessential New York experience. Nothing beats an early morning jog in the park before the city wakes up. My wife Dee and I love our apartment in The Plaza Hotel, which is at the corner of Central Park and Fifth Avenue, and has stunning views of the park. It’s a beautiful historic hotel residence with old world charm and an iconic list of past Manhattan residents: everyone has stayed here, from Marilyn Monroe to The Beatles and Jackie O. – I just wish the walls could talk!

I’m an avid art collector and have always been very inspired by art in my design process. Dee and I have an eclectic taste and love to find new pieces when we travel around the world, but we also love pop art and iconic American artists. If you’re an art enthusiast, New York is an incredible place to live because you’re surrounded by amazing museums and galleries everywhere you go, and the city is home to an incredibly talented group of emerging artists. My favourite museum in New York is the Whitney Museum of American Art because it has one of the best modern and pop art collections in the world, with works by my favourite artists including Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. I knew Andy personally and I consider him to be one of the ultimate icons of New York City life and culture. He embraced a unique point of view about the world and introduced a new framework for pop culture that created unparalleled momentum for pop art as a major new artistic movement.

For shopping, we love the energy of 5th Avenue and the more relaxed vibe in SoHo. One of my favourite ways to spend a weekend afternoon is vintage shopping with my daughters. We like What Goes Around Comes Around and Trash & Vaudeville, an iconic store that’s dressed everyone from The Ramones to Debbie Harry. For books, I like the Rizzoli store on 57th Street, which has a fantastic selection of art and coffee-table books. There’s also a really cool barbershop at Freemans Sporting Club, a store selling all locally-made products near the East Village. When it comes to décor, there is a great antique store called David Duncan Antiques on East 60th Street. Over the years, we have bought a few pieces from there for our home.

One of the best things about New York is the range of cuisine – no matter what you are in the mood for you can find it in the city. Dee and I like to try new restaurants and cuisines, but our current favourite dinner spots are La Esquina and Mercer Kitchen. Marea is also at the top of the list – I love the lively atmosphere and they make the best homemade pasta in the city. When Dee and I want a romantic dinner just the two of us, we head uptown to Amaranth on Madison Avenue where the grilled squid is a must-try. For a business lunch, Cipriani is always my go-to, and for weekend dining I like ABC Cucina – it’s in the heart of the Flatiron District and the décor is eclectic, with assorted glass chandeliers and exposed brick walls giving off a classic New York vibe. No New York experience is complete without a visit to Katz’s Delicatessen on East Houston Street – it’s an iconic NYC staple and you won’t find a better (or bigger!) pastrami sandwich anywhere.

Just looking around the streets of the city can also be a breathtaking experience – it’s got some of the world’s most iconic architecture, from the Statue of Liberty and St Patrick’s Cathedral to Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library. I love the simplicity of Art Deco, but also the beauty and brilliance of its metal, marble and mirror-work. Iconic landmarks like the Chrysler and Empire State buildings epitomise the style.

I’m happiest when I’m spending time with my family, no matter what we’re doing, and New York always keeps us busy. My youngest son just turned five, and he’s a big fan of the Central Park Zoo. Dee and I love antique hunting and trying out new restaurants. My older children love taking us to concerts at cool venues; I am a huge music fan and I love talking about their favourite new artists with them.

It’s easy to fall in love with New York, and it’s easy to see why the city continues to inspire me, even after 35 years here. It’s impossible to choose just one favourite thing about the city – it’s the culmination of the energy, culture and creativity that make it so special and unique. This city is the epitome of the American Dream, and it’s the place where anything is possible. And above all, it’s the ultimate home of iconic, American style.

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