May 23, 2005 -- FOR fashion mogul Tommy Hilfiger, style may be king, but reality television is the new black.
Hilfiger, one of the best-known apparel designers in the world, is hoping viewers will love his new CBS series, "The Cut," as much as his taste in clothes.
"My show is not just about fashion design," says Hilfiger. "It's much broader than that — I'm looking for someone who has the capability of building a lifestyle brand, which goes beyond apparel and fashion."
Buoyed by the success of "America's Next Top Model" and "Project Runway," "The Cut" — produced by "American Chopper" guru Craig Piligian — is a cross between "The Apprentice" and "Runway."
"I think the public really doesn't understand what goes on behind the scenes in the fashion business. They think it's all glamour, but building a global fashion brand is similar to building any kind of big brand," says Hilfiger.
"It's about really understanding the psyche of the consumer and designing products and situations that appeal to them."
On "Cut," 16 wannabe designers, including a 35-year-old Brooklyn street artist who is married with five stepchildren, compete for a big-bucks job working for Hilfiger.
They live together in a Soho loft and each week, the contestants are given a fashion- or branding-related challenge. They are judged by Hilfiger, and one is eliminated. The winner gets a $250,000-a-year job designing a Hilfiger fashion collection that will be sold in stores.
Part of the prize is a chance to keep working for the designer if the line successfully sells at retail stores.
Hilfiger says that using a reality program to promote his company is a natural evolution for him and the Hilfiger brand.
"Our show is much broader than fashion," he says. "My whole attitude and imaging has been about pop culture — about the fusion of music and fashion. Hollywood and fashion — that's what makes fashion exciting anyway, the blend of pop culture into the art of design.
"I have been doing my Tommy Hilfiger collection for 20 years now," he says. "This is something different for me, but actually doing the same thing I do every day. I mentor, I judge, and I guide a team of designers and creative people who develop products for the Tommy Hilfiger company globally."
The current Hilfiger collection consists of everything from sheets, pillow cases and towels to jewelry, scarves, shoes and, of course, apparel.