In early 1998 to much furore Tommy Hilfiger opened his first flagship store in Europe. London being his Capital of choice. But what significance does this hold with Liverpool and its band of travelling protagonists? Three years earlier New York once again became the destination of choice as the youth of our city once again needed to quench their appetite for stylistic pedantry.
The 90s had also seen Florida become the number one travel destination for Brits. With the dollar at a good rate of $1.65 to the £1 and air fares at a very reasonable price suitcases would be filled with Calvin Klein, Timberland, Gant, Bass Weejuns and Ralph Lauren at almost half the cost of the stores back home. A new concept on us Brits was the Outlet Malls with prices even more reduced than the Department Stores. This influx of Americana cast its spell on Britain not least the acolytes of this city.
The draw of the USA was there for all to see. Florida may have been the place for a once in a lifetime family holiday but New York had a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about it. A good friend of mine was one of only a few to jet out for a weekend in early ’95. Another guy owned a small store and knew he could stock up on Lacoste as well as Hilfiger. They went to Macys and Bloomingdales and stocked up on Hilfiger jackets, jumpers and polos. They had paid £180 for flights, stayed at cheap digs and spent the least they could on expenses. Tommy Hilfiger was about to explode onto the Liverpool fashion scene. The jackets cost £80 in New York but back home could command a fee of £160/£180 depending on the style.
The closest Outlet Mall to Manhatten is Woodbury Common and it was here that besides a Hilfiger store there was also a Lacoste store. Lacoste would become massive in Liverpool over the next 10 years and would eventually open its largest independent UK store adjoining Wade Smith in the city centre. Wade Smith would sell that much Lacoste over the years that the president and owner of the brand Monsieur Lemaire came for the opening of its new store and stated “Liverpool’s a bit like the Lacoste capital of the world and shows no sign of waning.” It could be said that he should have thanked the entrepreneurs who made these trips to New York for starting a trend.
It wasn’t long before my wife and I were flying across the Atlantic and touching down at JFK. Half empty suitcases in hand in readiness for some serious shopping. There wasn’t enough supply to deal with the demand, so even before we left home we had a shopping list of Hilfiger Jackets and Lacoste tracksuits. The profits made covered the weekend trip and we had a bit over to put towards the next trip a few months later. That’s how it was for a couple of years. New York 2 or 3 times during the year and Florida in the Summer. For us it was about the New York experience as well as the product. Our enthusiasm for travel bordered on fanaticism.