Tommy Hilfiger: What I've Learned

"I never think 'we've made it.' I think that's the beginning of the end"

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My nickname at school was "Hippo". You know how a big guy would be called "Tiny"? I was very small at school.

I have eight brothers and sisters and I learned from having so many siblings that every single person has a totally different framework. So I think I learned to be flexible and accepting. I am quite flexible. More flexible than my father was. He was hard on me.

Andy Warhol was quite an influence on me. I met him when I moved to New York. He baked pop culture like nobody else. He brought fashion, art, music, entertainment, celebrity and fun together. I always wanted to infuse my brand with pop culture. I looked at what Andy was doing and I wanted to pull from that.

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I started collecting Warhol early. And Basquiat. Keith Haring, too. Tracey Emin, [Marc] Quinn. Dubuffet. I have a lot of art. I've sold one piece in the last 20 years. It was a self-portrait by Basquiat. A museum wanted it and they didn't care what they paid for it. That was the bottom line!

Having children has taught me patience. And you need to accept that all plans are subject to change.

Two of my [seven] children are on the autistic spectrum. We spend a lot of time with them; they have special therapy and schools. You become very protective, and you become excited when there is a bit of movement or achievement. It's unique.

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You have to be flexible in a marriage, and you also have to be attentive. When I was building my business 30 years ago, I was busy 18 hours a day. That was probably one of the reasons why my first marriage didn't hold together as strongly as it should have.

I don't cook at all. I can make fried eggs but I'd rather have someone else do it for me. I eat, though. I love Italian food. 

I think about my weight more now than ever before. I used to be able to do 25 sit-ups and immediately tighten my stomach. So I do think about my weight a lot, though I'm drinking a non-Diet Coke and eating French fries right now so, you know…

I go to Mustique three or four times a year. There are no casinos, no shopping, no golf courses and no cruise liners coming in there. I've been going for 30 years.

There are a lot of things I wish I could have done. I wish I could have gone to Harvard, I wish I'd started my brand sooner. I wouldn't have had a bankruptcy at 25 years old if I had a masters from a business school or if I'd known how to read a balance sheet.

I never think, "We've made it." I think that's the beginning of the end. When you think you've made it you become complacent and no longer put the energy or passion in. 

A brand is a living thing. It's like a baby you continually have to nurture and take care of. You can't stifle the creativity, or hold the baby back from running when he wants to run, or walking when he wants to walk.

You cannot live without social media. It's part of everyday life. You have to embrace it. When Kendall Jenner walked down our runway we had 400m hits. It goes on and on.

I look at Zuckerberg and think, "You've got it right." These guys are geniuses. Eric Schmidt from Google, too. I mean, they've changed the world. Kevin Systrom from Instagram. These guys are changing society.

I like yoga a lot. I don't live in a lot of stress. If an issue arises I take care of it immediately. I don't know if this is a British or American expression, but I don't want to live with a monkey on my back. It's probably British. All our expressions except "Yo" are British.

Donald Trump is a genius businessman. I think he's brilliant. But just as a businessman. Running America is not like running a corporation. You need different skills. We need someone very smart [to be president], I don't know who it'll be. I don't want that job. 

Kris is my favourite Kardashian. I have incredible respect for her business sense. She's probably one of the smartest businesswomen out there. I mean, I know the whole family -— including Kanye and Caitlyn. What Kris has developed is a large corporation with many workers and many different aspects to it. 

I have six houses around the world, but Connecticut is my home. It's quiet, it's away from all the noise, it's where my children go to school and you think you're in the English countryside. It doesn't feel like it's near New York City at all. That's the main residence, where I feel the most relaxed.

My favourite film is Easy Rider. I saw it in 1969 and it was a turning point in my life. It was when I was starting my business, during the hippy revolution. I was going from being a young boy, a student, to a young man pioneering his own trail, so to speak. 

I find failure scary. I remember I felt failure when I was 25 and my business was going bankrupt. It was a terrible feeling.

My jet is a guilty pleasure. But I go back and forth on feeling guilty. I don't mind flying. I'll turn my phone off, watch a documentary and have a glass of wine.

I hate plastic surgery on men. I think it's spooky and scary. 

Ageing is an unfortunate part of life, but you have to roll with it. I go to the doctor regularly. I went four times last year. A friend of mine had prostate cancer and he died. Another friend has prostate cancer and he's not well, so I'm getting my blood checked on a regular basis. 

The one piece of advice I would give to my younger self would be to take more time out for yourself, be kind to yourself. I'm kinder to myself than I used to be, but I could be better.