Sportswear designer Tommy Hilfiger, with his family in tow, talks to The Aesthete about fashion, travel and questionable cuisine
American fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger, his wife Dee and daughters Elizabeth and Ally, all sat down with The Aesthete at Peasant in New York for an evening of laughter and levity.
ELIZABETH HILFIGER (AKA “FOU-FOU”):…Dee is ordering starters for the whole table, by the way.
Sounds like a plan. Have you guys been here before?
TOMMY: We have. The pizza is incredible, the pasta is amazing, and the bread is beyond. They also have conch salad, for a little Caribbean flavor.
ALLY HILFIGER: I like the sound of the Cornish hen. Since my purse has claws, I’d like to get the hen with claws. Or maybe the breast, but only if it’s been denippled.
ELIZABETH: Oh my God, that’s soooo artsy, Ally. I want my hen to have sparkly nipple tassles… [laughs]
ELIZABETH: Tell them the story, Dee.
DEE: Okay, so the other day I walked into Fou-Fou’s room, which Yolanda was cleaning. I wasn’t snooping or anything…
DEE: …and I happened to walk by this table and there was this pair of black sequined pasties.
ELIZABETH: Just for the record, I didn’t use them.
DEE: Actually, I thought they were mine. I even sent her a text message asking if she’d been in my lingerie drawer.
ELIZABETH: I hadn’t been. Dee’s are pink…[laughs]
ALLY: Oh my God! Look at how many olives your husband is eating!
TOMMY: I love olives.
ALLY: They’re an aphrodisiac, you know. You better get ready, Dee…
DEE: I’ll have to whip out my pasties…[laughs]
ELIZABETH: Okay, please stop. Should we tell them about the cute and little list?
ELIZABETH: It’s our list of people we love that we think are really, really cute and little.
ALLY: Daddy’s number one. Most days, at least.
ELIZABETH: Except when he gets mad at our brother, Richard.
DEE: Your dad is the least mad person I know.
TOMMY: It’s true. Okay, who would like some octopus?
ALLY: I would. It looks like an alien. How are the lima beans, Daddy?
TOMMY: They’re delicious.
ALLY: It’s so funny, that old-fashioned fear about lima beans and Brussels sprouts. Now you can make them taste so good.
TOMMY: I love Brussels sprouts.
DEE: You just don’t like what they do to you afterwards.
TOMMY: That is also true.
What’s the most exotic thing you’ve ever eaten?
TOMMY: I was in China in 1980, and this is, like, back when…
ELIZABETH:…Kowloon was under water? [laughs]
TOMMY: …Exactly! Well, just about. Anyway, it was before a lot of people from the outside world went into China. They drove me way, way out to see this factory, but then the owners insisted on taking us out to lunch. So we went to this house and on the porch there were these cages with animals in them — a possum, this thing that looked like a skunk with brown hair — all sorts of crazy things. They had a cloth over the cages, and the Chinese guys are pointing at the different cages and talking with each other. Then, one of them goes into the kitchen and gets this big leather glove and club, picks up one of the cages, and grabs this, like, weasel or whatever it was. He clubbed it and carried it back into the kitchen, all bloody. A half hour later out came a plate of rice with chunks of meat in it.
Did you dig in?
TOMMY: I just drank tea. I was too scared.
DEE: Tell them about the other time when they brought out that plate with duck’s feet on it. It looked like a giant porcini mushroom but then I noticed it had toenails!
TOMMY: Oh, right, and then they served the sea slug.
EVERYONE: It was a sea cucumber!
TOMMY: Right, a sea cucumber.
Was this also in China?
DEE: Yeah, when we were there a few years ago.
TOMMY: There was also pigeon with the beak still on. It’s very crunchy.
ALLY: I was at a Spanish tapas bar near Grammercy Park the other day and I told the chef I was an adventurous eater and to give me his most interesting dishes. He gave me calves balls. Testicles! They were actually really good…
TOMMY: I myself prefer goats’ testicles. Did you feel guilty?
ALLY: Not at all. I felt like a real woman.
DEE: I think everybody should try something and then we’ll all share. By the way, our favorite thing to do is invite guests to dinner and gross them out. It’s a Hilfiger tradition.
“…our favorite thing to do is invite guests to dinner and gross them out. It’s a Hilfiger tradition.” – Dee Hilfiger
Speaking of exotic, that’s a pretty serious handbag, Ally. It still has claws.
ALLY: I know, right? It’s crocodile. I got it at this little vintage store in Rhode Island.
DEE: We don’t like to eat animals but we’ll carry bags made out of them, apparently.
TOMMY: It looks like the duck feet. Was it expensive?
ALLY: Nope, it was $150. And it’s 100 percent real.
TOMMY: That would be $5,000 new.
ALLY: I wouldn’t have bought it if it wasn’t cheap. I’m cheap! The woman said she found it at an estate sale. I love estate sales. Steve and I get the classified section in the Connecticut newspaper and circle all the ads that say ‘antique’ or ‘vintage’. A couple of weekends ago we went this tiny little ranch house where the guy who died was 107. He lived in the house by himself and was totally OCD.
TOMMY: If you live to 107 you have a lot of time on your hands.
Do any of you cook?
DEE: I used to, but that was my old, less busy life. But I still make things for Tommy sometimes, and I recently let my chef go so I’ve been going to the store and making a few easy meals. But I don’t have time to spend two hours in the kitchen. I’m also so ADD that I have no patience. I like to do things quick. It doesn’t need to be this laborious thing. I lived most of my adult life in Europe and learned that it’s really about keeping it simple. I’m not into complicated sauces and things like that. I like food like this. I think everybody should try something and then we’ll all share, yes?
ALLY: Yes. Now let’s talk more about Daddy. When we were jumping off the boat, my friends were like, ‘Your dad looks really good for his age.’
TOMMY: Uh, thank you? [laughs]
ALLY: Dad, do your impression of Anna Wintour.
DEE: Oooh, I’ve never seen that one.
TOMMY: Give me your sunglasses. [He musses his hair and adopts a a mock English drawl.] ‘Tommy, how aaaaaare you? So nice to seeeee you.‘
Wow. That’s pretty great.
TOMMY: No, I’m totally kidding. Anna’s actually wonderful. She’s amazing.
What’s your favorite place in the world, Dee?
DEE: Pretty much anywhere in the Mediterranean. I lived in Monaco for 13 years and really came to know that area. It’s like a ghetto for rich people — super weird, but super interesting.
DEE: Oh, and Portofino is also pretty nice.
ELIZABETH: Wait, where’s Portofino?
DEE: You were just there!
ELIZABETH: Portofino the tanning salon?
DEE: No, the town!
ELIZABETH: Oh, right. [Laughs] What else do you guys want to know?
You’ve been an image advisor on American Idol, Tommy. What was that like?
TOMMY: Incredible. Somebody sent me a funny painting because of it. I got a letter from the guy, and he says, I’ve done a painting of you and I’ve also done paintings of Dolly Parton, Arnold Schwarznegger, and Donald Trump. I was like, stop right there!
DEE: It’s true. I almost wet my pants looking at it. Artists will sometimes send him a picture they did of him, but this one takes the cake. He looks almost like a lesbian. He told me to tell Ali I had commissioned it but I couldn’t get through it without laughing. We even hung it on our wall!
ELIZABETH: Ooooh, dessert. What’s that one?
TOMMY: It’s an apple soup.
DEE: It’s an apple tart.
TOMMY: Whatever it is, it’s tasty.