Haute Event: Tommy Hilfiger and William Lauder Speak at Harvard’s Retail & Luxury Goods Conference

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Last weekend I attended Harvard Business School’s Retail and Luxury Goods Conference. The event was held on the school’s pristine campus in Boston, where everything exudes high standards, including the three keynote speakers: Stephen Sadove, CEO of Saks Incorporated; William Lauder, executive chairman of the Estee Lauder Companies; and iconic designer Tommy Hilfiger. Throughout the two-day conference, 19 other industry experts spoke on panels about emerging markets, social enterprise, and e-commerce. As a parting gift, participants received a swag bag with treats such as a T-shirt from Ball and Buck, and a fabulous coffee table book by Tommy Hilfiger himself!

William Lauder offered lively anecdotes about the beauty industry, as well as statistics behind the marketing and production of his company’s successful products. He noted that while they strive to create global brands, they also understand the varying beauty needs of women living in different environmental conditions.

A dapper Tommy Hilfiger gave an equally entertaining talk about his history and goals. He spoke of being a teenager in Elmira, NY when he started his business, and how he began as a menswear designer simply wanting to revamp his own wardrobe! I enjoyed hearing him discuss the creation of his first signature fragrance, Tommy.

To my delight I was able to speak with both men afterward. My conversation with Mr. Lauder was all business; I wanted to know what happened to Prescriptives. He assured me that while the line is no longer carried in stores, it will always be available online. Tommy and I discussed more light-hearted topics, such as the inspiration he derives from the Boston area. He told me that he has spent many a wonderful summer in Nantucket and that the region has always been, and will continue to be, a source of inspiration for his all-American chic styles.

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