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Experience that West Coast vibe: The artistry behind Tommy Hilfiger’s Tommyland fashion show

The artistry behind Tommy Hilfiger’s Tommyland fashion show

Designed to reflect a “70s West Coast vibe” Tommy Hilfiger’s fashion show come mini-music festival took place earlier this month featuring a mix of festival rides, graffiti artists, food trucks and live music, underpinned by a visual toolkit created by Matt Lyon. The Drum caught up with the digital and mixed-media artist, to find out how he created the look for the fashion show extravaganza.

What was the brief from Tommy Hilfiger, what did they want to achieve?

When I was first approached by Tommy Hilfiger, through my agency Jelly London, I was given a thorough brief that served as a detailed introduction to the project. Not only did it include previous examples of last year’s NYC Tommy Pier catwalk show [in New York], but a clear direction of both the brand and focus for their new collection and this year’s event.

Since the show was planned for Venice Beach in LA and meant to have a festival-inspired aesthetic, visual moodboards for both imagery and typography referred to a distinctive early 70s West Coast vibe and vernacular. The brief was to create an entire visual toolkit for the show that included main typographical lockups, renderings of the patches and badges that appear in this season’s collection, typography assets, graphic elements, and social media icons. These were to be used throughout the show, from invitations and tickets, to signage, badges, decoration and supporting media.

Can you talk me through the creative process- what inspired you, how did you tackle the brief?

Aside from being given introductory mood-boards and key elements as step-off points, the initial research was key in targeting specific references from the desired location and era. Early 70s design and fashion is clearly evolved from the late 60s, but the theme was not to reflect the historical Summer of Love, which was much earlier in 1967. Although there were crossover styles during this time, the desired timeframe and West Coast location reflects an evolution of typographical and illustrative design, i.e. more ‘groovy’, fun and laid-back rather than flowery and psychedelic.

As with starting all new projects, I find that you can never have too much research for inspiration. Since I have a personal interest in design and illustration from the 60s and 70s, I already had a good collection of books to rifle through. And with a supporting library of online bookmarks, I soon gathered a wealth of imagery that included typography, design, illustration, magazine clippings, etc. as well as TV intros and idents, music and photos from the era. Immersing myself in everything I collect always makes for a more productive and inspiring start.

Were there any ideas that you discarded?

As when working on all projects, the initial responses cover a wide selection of possible directions. This can often be the most creative time to experiment with ideas that will later be developed and distilled to arrive at the best outcomes. There were a number of discarded ideas throughout the project that included both visual inspirations and stylistic directions.

In terms of the former, one of the many typography inspirations was from the West Coast vernacular of signage and architecture. However, despite the wealth of reference, much of it covered too broad an era of decades and wasn’t specific to the 70s. Early on I also spent time developing the style of the design, experimenting with both the depiction of pictorial elements and their graphical appearance and colour. Other rejected designs and ideas mostly strayed from the core direction of the brief.

Are any of the design elements similar to the Tommy Pier show in New York last year?

Since I was developing the visual toolkit, the only similarities to the work created for Tommy Pier were the variety of elements needed for the show and Tommy Hilfiger’s signature colour palette. Last year’s event in NYC had distinct design attributes that reflected vintage pier signage, boardwalk graphics and imagery reminiscent of Coney Island attractions.

In comparison, not only was Tommyland designed to reflect a 70s West Coast vibe, but the whole event was planned to feel like a mini-music festival at sunset on the beach, surrounded by palms trees with the sights and sounds of a festival.

Did you encounter any unexpected challenges? If so how did you overcome them?

I think the main challenge, mostly at the start of the project, was successfully pinpointing the design style that could be applied across all elements of the toolkit. It’s easy to gather references that reflect a certain fashion or era of design and then ape that style. What’s more challenging is to identify key aspects of inspiration and build upon those to create contemporary outcomes.

In terms of my chosen research from the 70s, all of it was hand-drawn and crafted with much of it retaining a certain degree of looseness in appearance. I’m comfortable with this approach because it reflects my own process of working.

Everything I do is first drawn with pen on paper, long before it reaches further work on-screen. In developing these drawings, it took a few attempts to strike a balance between retaining the quality of line whilst arriving at a more graphic and contemporary outcome. An unexpected support to this was in the use of a limited colour palette that unified all the designs. This is something I’m less used to, certainly in my personal work, so it came as a welcome result.

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