In Lewis Hamilton’s life, excess has never been limited to that of speed, to limits overtaken and records broken on the track. The four-time Formula One World Champion is seemingly oblivious to the concept of minimalism. Instead, the 33-year-old Englishman has always found himself at the centre of the almost-obsessive attentions of admirers and critics. An abundance of body art may have contributed: a map of clear religious iconography divided between Michelangelesque Pietà images and the gates of Heaven. Unapologetic displays of his wealth, despite being almost all earned on the track, also make him a marked man. His profile is drawn in regular detail by the press, but the common image bears little resemblance to the man we meet in a hotel in downtown New York to present TommyxLewis, the capsule collection Hamilton has designed with Tommy Hilfiger.
He arrives late and apologises politely.
Hamilton looks with admiration at the American designer as together they showcase and discuss the collection, which lands in stores this month. Pieces include an oversized parka with fur hood and checked lining, stone-washed denim, a brightly coloured cotton stretch tracksuit with velvet side detail, wool peacoats, two-tone varsity jackets. Almost everything features the Hilfger red and white trademark flag fused with the Formula One driver’s initials in bold gothic font. “We often met out and about in New York. Obviously I knew Lewis and being a great Formula One enthusiast, I have always loved his bold racing style,” says Hilfiger. “Every time we parted saying, ‘We must do something together’.
At a certain point I proposed to him that we create a capsule collection: I never would have imagined a result quite like this.”
ICON: Did that really happen or is it something you say for the journalists?
Lewis Hamilton: “It is all true. The first time we bumped into each other was in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York. Then we met up again at events and fashion shows. At the beginning I thought it was just one of those things that get said but never happens. But it happened for real and I couldn’t have been keener. Hilfiger has always been a reference for me, since I was young boy. I have always been a big hip-hop fan and if you think about the video clips that were shown on MTV in the ’90s, all the big names were wearing Tommy Hilfiger: TLC, Snoop Dogg, Aaliyah, Wu-Tang Clan. It was a dream come true for me.”
LH: “(Laughs) Yes, I have always wanted to create my own collection. I gave the project my full commitment, starting from the creation of moodboards, putting my ideas together in order to present them to their style team. And then choosing the fabrics, the designs and the font for the logo. I don’t think even they were expecting to see someone so dedicated to
ICON: What was your objective as a designer?
LH: “I wanted to create something that celebrated the Tommy Hilfiger DNA but also that expressed and reflected me. For this reason I spent a great deal of time in their archives, a whole three floors: a truly breathtaking place. I went to their headquarters in Amsterdam, I studied the technological evolution of fabrics. However, style-wise, I have always been influenced by ’90s street culture so I wanted there to be military-inspired pieces, boots and jackets. My favourite piece? The denim jacket with the logo on the back. There are 44 pieces of apparel and accessories, and 44 is my lucky number: it was the number plate of the first kart I drove when I was eight years old. There will be the official presentation in September. Have I already mentioned that I am excited about it all?”
ICON: Yes and it seems slightly unusual considering you should be used to success …
LH: “This has something new and fresh about it. Of course not wanting to take anything away from winning a Formula One World Championship. The fact is that, since I was a child, all my life has been dedicated to that.
I do not come from a wealthy background and my father, who has always been my greatest supporter, held down four jobs to allow me to compete in kart racing, a sport which is considerably expensive. When I would return home, I would go into the garage and work on my car. As a consequence, however, we couldn’t afford much else. I wore only secondhand clothes.”
ICON: What was the first clothing purchase you can recall?
LH: “When I was 13 years old I bought my first Tommy Hilfiger garment in one of my vintage haunts: a pair of denim dungarees. At a certain point success has arrived and you began to fit in at the front row at fashion shows.”
ICON: How did you feel then?
LH: “In trouble. I had prepared and groomed myself my whole life for success on the racing track. I basically did only that. At weekends I would race, I wouldn’t go out with friends. When I made my debut in Formula One with McLaren, at 22 years of age, I was well behind my peers in terms of social relations. I blossomed late! Then I started getting invited to fashion shows, and I would sit there, in silence, slightly intimidated. I would have liked to have shown more self-confidence. But mixing in that environment allowed me to take my first steps in creating my own personal style, discover who I was and how I wanted to appear to the world outside.”
ICON: Whose style do you admire today?
LH: “In the ’90s I would have said Tupac. Do you remember how he would wear Versace’s printed shirts with such ease? Today I would definitely say Pharrell Williams: he has a personal and unique style as an artist as well as a designer. I truly admire him, he is someone to take after.”
ICON: Have you considered becoming a full-time designer?
LH: “My profession does have a shelf life. Usually after that time the drivers stay on the Formula One circuit, becoming commentators or managers. That doesn’t really interest me. I will say my farewells, my thanks and take my leave. Talking about my future as a designer, well I want to start from the beginning, showing hard work and humility so as to be accepted by those who have been designing for years. I have had the opportunity to learn from an icon in Tommy, and my dream is to have my own brand one day. I am sure that we all have an inner light, a special vocation or a need to do something. You just need to figure out how to switch it on. And I am still working on it.”
THIS ARTICLE APPEARED ORIGINALLY IN THE OCTOBER EDITION OF ICON MAGAZINE.
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