Last month, Tommy Hilfiger introduced its first digital showroom in its headquarters in Amsterdam, giving an outlook of what the buying process could potentially look like for fashion retailers in the future.

The heart of the showrooms forms an interactive, 50 x 100 cm large touch screen, which communicates with a four meter high wall made of a high definition screen. Via these gadgets, Tommy Hilfiger retailers may take a close look at every piece of the seasonal Tommy Hilfiger and Hilfiger Denim collection, and directly place orders in all product categories. Other functions include head to toe inspection of key looks, zooming in details of every garment and selecting items to receive information on color and sizing.

During the launch season, Tommy Hilfiger will additionally have one physical sample piece per color available on-site, but significantly minimize the number of samples with a future goal to remove all samples from the showrooms. According to Tommy Hilfiger CEO, Daniel Grieder, the company will hence save making approximately 800,000 to 1,000,000 sample pieces for their 40 showrooms on a yearly basis and therefore minimize resources (manufacturing and shipping) and four to six weeks’ time in the production process, as sample collections are hand-sewn.
After the Amsterdam kick-off, Hilfiger plans to implement the digital tools within their showrooms in Asia, New York, Düsseldorf, Paris, London and Milan next season and convert all 40 showrooms within the next three seasons.

We spoke to CEO Daniel Grieder about the development and motivation behind the digital showroom. Interview by Maria Hunstig

CEO Daniel Grieder (l.) with Tommy Hilfiger in the digital showroom
CEO Daniel Grieder (l.) with Tommy Hilfiger in the digital showroom

What triggered you to develop the digital showroom?
I got inspired when I realized it almost takes a year from the development of a product until it finally hits the shelves! This had to be revolutionized and lead times had to be shortened. Then I had a moment two years ago, when watching the news on TV and seeing the weather forecast. I watched the presenter in front of his green screen, standing in one place as the information moved around him. He could instantly shift from a macro overview to minute details and I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could develop a system to integrate this into our buying process?

How did you introduce this to your team?
I introduced my idea to different people in my office. Three people said “I cannot imagine this,” but the fourth one said, “I don’t know how, but we will find a way.” So we developed the whole concept and software together with an internal team, over two years. It’s a great example of determination and teamwork, because at the beginning it all was pure chaos.

Last season we started test runs by inviting our own sales teams to carry out test orders with the digital showroom tools; then tried it with our own stores, and finally with our wholesale customers. At the beginning some were skeptical, but in the end they were all convinced that this would work out.

Fashion is a very tactile matter. Don’t your customers miss touching and feeling the garments?
For the younger generation, this isn’t a problem at all. We find that our older customers still like to actually touch the styles, and for this reason we keep 20x20cm fabric samples in the digital showroom they can experience materiality. Also, you can zoom into the details of an item so much more on the high-resolution screen than in real life!

But you don’t see the styles worn on an actual person, which really gives you an idea about the fit of a garment…
In the future, we will have the option to show our customers a style on two to three mannequins with different sizes.