How Aaliyah Became the Face of Tommy Hilfiger in the 1990s

The 90s weren't complete without Babygirl

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Tommy Hilfiger

I've said it before and I will more than likely say it again. If we hadn't lost Aaliyah early, I believe she would have been the first female R&B singer to be signed to a major athletic brand (similar to a Nike athlete contract), the first R&B singer to have her own signature sneaker, and that a streetwear line of her own would have definitely been in the works eventually. The steps were already being put in motion, and while this may seem like no big deal/easy to do in the 2020s, in the 2000s the concept of having all of these things would have been almost unheard of. If there was anybody who had a shot at achieving that feat it was Aaliyah, and if you ask exactly how the steps were being put in motion, her deal with Tommy Hilfiger in the late 1990s was an indicator of exactly where she was headed. Today marks 22 years since her untimely passing, so we're remembering her legacy by reflecting on how Aaliyah became the face of Tommy Hilfiger in the 1990s.

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The early years of Aaliyah and Tommy Hilfiger (1994 - 1996)

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Blackground Records

In order to get on the radar of fashion brands and designers, you have to first establish yourself as a fashion force in the industry, which didn't take long for Aaliyah to do. Street but sweet was the motto used to describe her, and her style was one that instantly stood out with her baggy clothes, boxers, sports bras, tanks, bandanas, and dark sunglasses. Aaliyah's style was uniquely Aaliyah, and is one that remains copied nearly thirty years after she first hit the scene with her debut single "Back and Forth." That leads us to the mid-1990s when the artist was in the midst of working on her sophomore album One in a Million.

Signing to Tommy Hilfiger (1996)

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Getty Images

In 1996, Tommy Hilfiger made the decision that it was going to expand into womenswear. Thus began the beginning of an iconic collaboration with Aaliyah. In 1996, the brand officially introduced their women's line with a Tommy Jeans ad campaign that starred Aaliyah, her best friend and Quincy Jones' daughter Kidada Jones, and Mark Ronson. The collaboration made Aaliyah the first R&B singer to land an endorsement of that nature, and it looked a little something like this:

It was just an ad right? Wrong. Aaliyah's campaign with Tommy Hilfiger sparked a whole revolution. With her style already being heavily imitated, teen girls and young adult women began flocking to stores to grab themselves some TH apparel, and Aaliyah rightfully became a model and ambassador for the brand. A 2016 article from Complex detailed how exactly the singer one of the brand's most prominent supporters. Andy Hilfiger described to the publication how the deal came to be. "Somebody called me from Atlantic [Records] and said, “I have this artist, Aaliyah.” I said, “Yeah, I know who she is.” She wanted to model, so I put her in the ads."

He went on to add: "What Aaliyah really did was show this style, the sexy but sporty-chic style. She brought this swagger, this sexiness. It was just incredible. We created a new look with Aaliyah, and that look is still popular today. Now, I see all kinds of companies doing the whole bandeau tops with the underwire waistband, and we did that first. I give Kidada a lot of credit, because she had such a vision. She and Aaliyah were on the same page. And Aaliyah loved Kidada and would listen to anything she said."

Hip Hop and Tommy Hilfiger went hand-in-hand in the 1990s, and while Aaliyah wasn't a Hip Hop artist per se, she was very much a part of the Hip Hop community. Considering the impact her time with the brand still has all of these years later, it's safe to say that Aaliyah became the face of Tommy Hilfiger for that specific time period. When you think of 1990s TH you automatically think of Aaliyah, and that's very much in line with the way her legacy continues to thrive.

Long live Aaliyah Dana Houghton.

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