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10 life lessons from the inimitable Tommy Hilfiger

Source: Vogue

Ahead of being presented with the Outstanding Achievement accolade at the 2021 Fashion Awards, the legendary American designer opened up to Vogue about the milestones that have shaped his illustrious career

BY ALEX KESSLER

At the 2021 Fashion Awards at London’s Royal Albert Hall next month, Tommy Hilfiger will be presented with the Outstanding Achievement Award, a prestigious accolade that has also been handed to the likes of Miuccia Prada, Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld. “I’m certainly pinching myself,” the legendary American designer tells Vogue. “It’s an honour to be included in a hall of fame with so many other incredible talents.”

With no formal design experience, Hilfiger opened his first business in upstate New York, People’s Place, at the age of 18. A few years later, he launched his eponymous label in New York, and went on to become renowned for his preppy, American sportswear aesthetic. The ’90s brought enormous commercial success, as Hilfiger became one of the first designers to tap into the power of a celebrity endorsement, via famous fans like Snoop Dogg, P Diddy, Coolio and Aaliyah. (The playwright Jeremy O Harris recently paid tribute to an Aaliyah Tommy Hilfiger look in a custom puffer coat at the 2021 Met Gala). “We began to connect with music in a major way,” explains Hilfiger, “at a time when magazines were only using models as cover shots.”

Fast forward to now, and the Tommy Hilfiger brand is one of the most prominent in the world, with flagships and stockists in every major city. Hilfiger continues to forge new paths for his label, collaborating with some of the buzziest celebrity names: Zendaya, Gigi Hadid, Indya Moore and Lewis Hamilton, to name a few. “The idea was that we bring brain power into our brand, and listen to people who were influential in the world of pop culture,” says Hilfiger.

To celebrate his Outstanding Achievement award, Vogue asked the designer to share the 10 life lessons that helped him on the road to success.

If it’s truly your life’s dream, you can start a fashion empire with $150

“When I was a young teen, I would take a trip into New York City, five and a half hours from my home, to find great clothes. When I wore them to school, all of my friends wanted to know where I was getting everything, so at that point in time, I decided I should open my own shop. I started my business with $150 that I’d saved from working at a gas station.”

Don’t like something? Turn it on its head and make it your own

“Growing up, I thought preppy clothes were boring, so I decided to make them cool by making them oversized and colourful, as well as marrying them with sportswear. When I started Tommy Hilfiger in 1985, I was embraced by the youth right away, because I was doing something different to what they had seen before. We were the first designer label to go public in the early ’90s, and then we expanded all over the world.”

Learning how to please the consumer is vital to running a business

“You can have the most famous name in the world, as well as incredible marketing and advertising, but if you don’t have a great product that consumers want, you’re out of business. It’s got to look great, but if it doesn’t fit well, it will never sell. If it’s too expensive, then young people won’t buy it. If you are not on trend, people will move on.”

Clock the brightest stars before they really shine

“We were doing a show in New York and our DJ cancelled, so my brother Andy introduced me to an all-girl music group to perform instead. We dressed them in boys’ clothes, because we didn’t have womenswear at the time, and afterwards I asked my brother who the one in the middle was — who had the most incredible voice — and he said to me that her name was Beyoncé. We formed a relationship with her, and eventually she became the face of our True Star fragrance.”

For a collaboration to be successful, it has to truly be a team effort

“At the start of my career, one of my favourite projects was with Aaliyah, because it was really a collaboration. From then, I decided we should work with more people with distinct aesthetics. We brought in Gigi Hadid, who had a Southern California style and a fresh all-American look, and we actually let her design the clothes. We surrounded her with the right people who helped bring it to life, and that was a huge success. We did the same with Zendaya, Lewis Hamilton and Indya Moore. Plus more to come.”

Never compromise on brand identity, but be open to exploring new avenues

“When the hip hop community started wearing my clothes in the late ’80s, early ’90s, I was really the first to do streetwear, and people didn’t know what to make of it because it was oversized and bright, with enormous logos. Even though it felt entirely new at the time, it still had a preppy backbone to it, which it still does. I continually use the same ingredients to keep the brand DNA intact, but [I’m] always looking to make it fresh.”

The future of fashion is in the metaverse

“I love the digital world — I’m obsessed with where it is going and I think fashion will be an important part of it. E-commerce will be here for a very long time, but I think there are new ways that it can exist. I’m also developing my own video game, and I’m a partner in developing avatars with the EWG [Elite World Group].”

To be successful you have to look ahead, but also at what’s around

“Always picture yourself being as successful as you want to be, but I also learned from looking at other brands and designers. I’m always watching what’s going on in the world of fashion, whether it’s watching the Balmain show or looking at somebody like Demna Gvasalia.”

Your family life can be a source of inspiration

“My mind is constantly working, but I find a balance with my family. My son is a musician; my daughter has her own brand; my other daughter is an artist; my stepson plays professional tennis; and they’re always influencing me. I’m interested in what they’re wearing, where they’re going, and where they’re travelling to.”

Giving back is just as rewarding as success itself

“If you have any sort of success, you should find a way to give back, whether it is to your favourite charity or helping young people in need. We’re an incredibly generous group within the Tommy Hilfiger organisation, and I believe it all came from my mother who brought up nine children. Regardless of how much you have, there are people who have less than you and you should try to help.”

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Business

Offering certainty to an uncertain PRS

By Paul Foy, CEO, RentGuarantor

The UK private rental sector is facing growing uncertainty. The number of landlords offering properties had already dropped considerably when the government imposed the Tenant Fees Act in 2019, and now, following the pandemic and amidst the current cost-of-living crisis, we are on the verge of a rental crisis – with the average lettings agent having just 11 properties available to rent in July per member branch, and 127 new prospective tenants on average being added to the books.

With the number of properties available already limited, and the recent government whitepaper, ‘A Fairer Private Rental Sector’, proposing drastic changes that are expected to drive more landlords out of the market, tenants looking to move need to make sure they are in a position to make an offer quickly, or else risk losing out on their dream home.  This includes having enough money to pay the deposit, and in most instances providing a guarantor, which is easier said than done in the current financial crisis.

For landlords, the need for a guarantor is becoming ever greater with so many facing financial insecurity. As rising energy bills and higher costs of living continue to put strain on the British public, 400,000 households are already expected to fall behind on their rent payments, meaning landlords need to find a way of ensuring they can still receive rent payments – so as to cover their own costs and income. The issue, however, is that the crisis is affecting us all, and a friend or family member acting as a guarantor may well find themselves in a position where they are unable to pay the rent themselves.

Evictions aren’t beneficial for either party and, despite how they can sometimes be presented in the media, most landlords care about the wellbeing of those renting their properties. But with rent arrears being a top concern for landlords, and 78% of tenants being worried about how they will pay rent, there is a clear need for additional support to be extended to all within the private rental sector.

Extra security for landlords

The last few years have seen landlords subjected to a great deal of uncertainty around their rental properties. Changing laws, the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis have all come together to spur an increase in due diligence when looking at prospective tenants and the security of the tenancy. This has in turn led to an increased demand for tenants to have a guarantor, rising by 36% over the past 4 years.

As financial pressure mounts for many in the country, that need for a guarantor is only expected to rise, but with the increased living costs hitting the majority of people it can dampen the stability granted by a personal guarantor.

Instead, many landlords are recommending tenants use a company guarantor, offering them a guarantee that is underwritten by an insurance company, and providing an additional level of security to both the landlord and tenant. On top of this a professional guarantor service grants the landlord with the peace of mind that any situation arising from a tenant falling into arrears would be managed on their behalf – including eviction in the rare circumstances where it should come to that.

Additional support for tenants

As well as the benefits afforded to landlords, rent guarantor services also provide a much-needed lifeline for prospective tenants. With the private rental sector currently facing a major housing shortage, having the right provisions in place when making an offer could be the difference between securing or losing that dream home.

The service provided by a rent guarantor company means tenants can quickly provide a guarantor when needed, without having to negotiate any awkward or uncomfortable conversions with friends or family members, and can often have a completed application within minutes – only paying once the contract has been signed.

Additionally, the majority of these services offer the option to pay in instalments, taking away the pressure of paying a lump sum up front – which can be a daunting prospect in today’s financial climate. This can, through some companies, include an upfront deposit payment that can be added to the instalments, further reducing the cost burden tenants face and helping to streamline the moving process.

A necessary service in an uncertain sector

While relatively new to the UK, rent guarantor companies provide an important service, which guarantees landlords will receive their payments. In turn, this takes away the financial pressure and concerns of the tenant by granting them a reliable guarantor that will back them if they’re unable to afford rent. With many of these services underwritten by some of the UK’s largest insurance firms, they can provide an invaluable level of security during these difficult times.

While the future of the PRS is still uncertain, and there are likely to be many more hurdles to overcome in the near future, the services provided by rent guarantor companies can at least provide some respite during the current crisis we are facing – offering the extra support needed by both tenant and landlord.

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Business

How to prioritise your customers’ mental health by sharing vulnerability data

Source: Finance Derivative

Author: Tim Farmer, Co-founder and Clinical Director at Comentis

The Consumer Duty and its ramifications are certainly starting to permeate through the financial services sector as a whole. That being said, we still have a long way to go and for financial advisers to make truly informed decisions on the important topic of customer vulnerability, all parties involved in the distribution chain will need to work much more closely together.

Collaboration is key.

If all parties in the distribution chain start to share their vulnerability data more intelligently, and take a more joined-up approach, they will begin to offer a considerably improved customer experience. But most importantly, they will help to ensure that their customer feels truly safe when sharing their story. After all, having to go through the emotional turmoil of sharing their experiences again and again – to multiple different providers – is only going to cause the customer greater anxiety. In some cases, it may even lead to them feeling unsafe to share their story.

I believe safely sharing customer data around vulnerability can actually ease a customer’s anxiety, reduce their stress and help to engender long-term trust between customer and adviser. I would even go so far as to say that a lack of joined up thinking can, unfortunately, allow some incredibly vulnerable people to slip through the net. Ultimately, failing to share data that is this important will only be to the detriment of the individual.

Vulnerability assessments can vary.

When we look at a customer / adviser relationship, we will of course note that who the customer is speaking to and where that conversation takes place will affect the way they feel. For instance, they might open up during a vulnerability assessment because they feel like they’re in a safe space, but then may not in further vulnerability assessments because they don’t feel safe or simply don’t trust one of the other providers they’re engaging with.

Alternatively, the customer might believe that because they have already laid their vulnerabilities out to one provider, they shouldn’t need to do so again to someone else. After all, they might (understandably) assume that all salient information would be passed over.

The other concerning possibility is that when a person tells a difficult story again and again, they forget who they have told which detail to and leave certain elements out the next time they tell it, merely because that information has already been shared at another stage. You can begin to see, without a fully joined up approach, how much potential exists for important information to be dropped.

Why we need an industry standard.

So, what can be done? And upon whose shoulders should responsibility rest, to ensure that key details about a customer’s vulnerabilities aren’t missed?

What we need is an industry standard of information sharing, that works across all product providers. This not only needs joined up thinking, but smart ways of working from a technology point of view. Providers should be using the same platform for inputting key information, and indeed, for intelligently digesting the vulnerability data that comes out.

It’s here that I believe a triage system would really benefit the financial services industry. Creating a triage system, much like you would experience when a patient physically attends an Accident and Emergency room at hospital, would allow all the right information to be gathered upfront and then shared safely and correctly down the distribution chain. This would ensure that the customer avoids needless repetition, continues to feel safe sharing their story in a different setting and won’t have to worry about missing out a key detail. It will also take the emphasis off the customer, who is going to be feeling very raw and exposed and puts it back onto the providers. After all, this is their responsibility.

Put the customer at the heart of all decisions.

The key here is transparency, detailed disclosure and ensuring all providers adhere to the same technology and ways of working. A practical and pragmatic guide or industry standard recognised by all would of course be very beneficial too. Until then however, a collaborative solution by all providers must be agreed – and it must prioritise the customer.

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Business

KICKSTART YOUR SAVINGS WITH THESE TIPS

Source: Finance Derivative

By Shelley van der Westhuizen, financial well-being strategy & applied research at Alexforbes

We often hear people talking about short-term, medium-term or long-term savings. But as an individual or family, it may be more useful to think about what your savings are for, like saving for a home, or a holiday, rather than time-based goals. This approach also helps you work out how much you need to invest for each goal you’re saving for.

Financial Planning Month in October reminds us of the need to have financial goals and to work towards achieving them over time. While many of us are battling to afford our expenses, it can seem quite daunting to also think about saving. The first challenge is making it through the month spending less than you earn.

Your three most important savings questions

To get started, there are three questions that help you work out how much to save regularly:

  • What do I want or need to save for? This is the goal.
  • How much does it cost?
  • How much time do I have until I need the money? For example, you might work out that you need R100 000 for your child’s studies when they finish school, seven years from now.

Considering your various goals and different time periods, which financial products to use and factoring in your expected investment returns, you may begin to feel overwhelmed. This is where a qualified financial adviser can help with a suitable financial plan that you can put into action.

Some savings come first

While we can work on saving for different goals at the same time, we also need to prioritise and manage debt. If you’re worrying about your debt or spending most of your money on debt repayments or have some overdue accounts, it’s time to get help. In the Alexforbes financial courage survey, over 80% of respondents said that they spent most of their time worrying while dealing with their finances. Almost 75% of people attribute their financial stress to debt worries. This means that money worries caused by being over-indebted often interfere with work and quality of life.

The value of protection

One of the ways to avoid becoming over-indebted is to prioritise emergency savings. Having emergency savings is an important part of achieving financial goals because, even if you’re not over-indebted, it means that any other savings you have can be used for their intended purpose.

Once you’ve considered your expenses, including your debt, and have built up your emergency savings buffer against unexpected things going wrong, it’s time to consider your other savings goals.

One of your financial goals is to have enough to live on one day when you can’t work any longer. When Alexforbes asked people if they knew how much of their salary they needed to save to have enough to live on when they got older, 94% didn’t know. Most people would be surprised to find out that they need to save around 17% of their income for 40 years, and always keep their retirement savings invested. In this way, they can enjoy a pension that is about three-quarters of the salary they were earning just before they stop working. How much you need to save for retirement and other goals is a very important personal question that needs an answer and depends on your circumstances.

Being realistic

By the beginning of 2021 the number of people contributing regularly to their own savings had fallen by 28%. Moreover, the average savings amount of those still contributing regularly had decreased by 23%according to Deloitte, The State of the South African Consumer Tracker. If you’re struggling to make good progress towards your financial goals now, you’re not alone. It may be a good idea to invest your energy in what you can manage while times are tough like reducing your spending wherever possible or growing your skills.

End financial anxiety

According to The State of the South African Consumer, our consumers are the fourth most financially anxious in the world. Over 33% of consumers spend more than they can afford.Combined with taking more control of our finances by following some of these suggestions, spending less on nice-to-have items may be a good way to reduce any financial anxiety you might have and have more financial success ahead.

Knowing how much you’ll need is a first step towards knowing how much to save each month. There are some fun tools to help you discover this information for yourself, like the Alexforbes My Retirement Picture(https://retirements.digital.alexanderforbes.co.za/), that’s available to everyone.

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