It can be hard for a decades-old company to continue to innovate in exciting ways.

Tommy Hilfiger, founded in 1985, has made their reputation through dedication to an “American cool” classic style. The clothing line faltered in the early 2000s as their once-trendy red/white/blue palette and reliance on stripes and bold geometrics fell out of favor.

The Power of Innovation

However, recent innovations at the brand have led to a resurgence, with global sales topping $6.7 billion per year. Their latest move has been an unusual one: creating an adaptive clothing line for adults with disabilities.

The clothes will incorporate features that make it easier for men and women with disabilities to put them on each day and fit them to unique body shapes. These features include one-handed zippers, adjustable hemlines, velcro or magnetic closures, and other items that allow independence and style.

Most clothing in the line adheres to the classic Tommy Hilfiger styles with bold solids, stripes, and blocks of color. The newly launched clothing collection features 37 items for men and 34 for women.

Creativity Equals Gains

About fifteen percent of the world’s population has a physical or a mental disability. When the buying power of disabled individuals is combined with that of their family members, they represent around $6.9 trillion in spending power. Designers who bring their creativity to the challenges of making excellent clothing for this audience have a lot to gain.

What You Can Learn

A few lessons from Hilfiger’s success that can apply to your brand:

Look at who is underserved.

Moving into a crowded playing field can be difficult, at best. Instead of trying to distinguish yourself from the pack where competition is fierce, look at who is not served well by current products. By addressing the needs of these groups, you can carve out a niche for yourself and make an audience for your brand.

Start with a pilot program.

Tommy Hilfiger first created a collection of adaptive clothing for kids last year. When that was a success, they expanded to add the new collection for adults.

Get help from experts.

If you are heading into an area that is new to you, look for guidance along the way.

Tommy Hilfiger partnered with Runway of Dreams, a nonprofit whose goal is broadening fashion choices for kids with disabilities. They also worked on the kids’ line in partnership with adaptive clothing brand MagnaReady.

When working on the adult version of the clothing line, they spoke to a number of individuals to learn about their biggest fashion frustrations. They learned that the big three challenges were adjustability, modified closures, and other factors that made it easy to get in and out of garments. With that knowledge in hand, they built these into every item in their adaptive line.

Doing good does well for you.

It’s hard for fashion brands to make mainstream news. Some brands try to make the cut by doing something shocking, which can yield negative attention that can hurt goodwill for your brand. By reaching out to an underserved audience, Tommy Hilfiger got the attention of the media and got the sort of positive coverage that helps.

Looking where you can fill a need can allow your brand to make a bigger difference in the world. It can also spell increased success for your brand. By identifying these needs, you can provide customers with something they needed but weren’t getting from someone else and build strong and valuable relationships.

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