Tommy Hilfiger bounded out onto the runway after his military-themed show, called Cadet Academy, to the strains of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." It was a funny little wink and nod to some other civilians using a soldier's uniform as a fashion statement.
But on the runway, the proceedings had none of that colorful, goofy levity. The collection meant business. That started with a big-budget set that re-created the ivy-streaked brick façade of a nameless West Point alternative along with a manicured courtyard-cum-park complete with little trees, all inside the Park Avenue Armory. And when it came to the clothes, it was for the most part an exceedingly tidy and serious look that cycled through highly luxed-up versions of an imagined would-be officer's wardrobe. Coats—both pea and officer's—and motorcycle jackets came in lush bonded leathers and shearlings. Suiting had a neat snap in combinations of navy and burgundy, sometimes with the addition of quilted leather sleeves or silver braided trim.
You could almost believe that these male models were operating under the threat of being chewed out by their sergeant if one thin pant cuff didn't fall exactly at mid-ankle. The show notes promised "a personalized take on military precision." The collection certainly delivered on that last bit. By the show's end, a hint of rock 'n' roll—a Hilfiger obsession—finally emerged, though a touch more rebellion wouldn't have been a bad idea.
Still, Hilfiger and consulting designer Simon Spurr are right on the fashion mark, marching in lockstep with the military direction of last month's European collections. And think, just a year ago, this high-production extravaganza was an intimate presentation at a downtown restaurant. Onward and upward.