Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger are household names with global recognition and mass appeal, cutting across generations and social classes with their iconic marketing campaigns, quality goods and on-brand messaging. At the top sits Emanuel Chirico, chairman and CEO of Calvin and Tommy’s parent company PVH—which earned $8.2 billion in 2016 alone.
Chirico has put in over 20 years at PVH, taking over as chairman and CEO in 2007. Since then, he’s seen the retail powerhouse through multiple evolutions, most notably the acquisitions of Tommy Hilfiger in 2010 and Warnaco in 2013 (Calvin Klein was acquired in 2003). Thanks to his financial savvy and ability to orchestrate winning business transactions, PVH is a retail, wholesale and licensing conglomerate covering all major global markets—a long way from the company’s 1881 beginnings, when it was known as Philip Van Heusen.
While most consumers may recognize PVH by its iconic marketing campaigns, which have featured everyone from Brooke Shields to Justin Bieber, it’s the behind-the-scenes culture that distinguishes the company. “PVH was always a place where the financial person sat next to the business leader. In this industry, the way you get in trouble is with great ideas that don’t make financial sense or haven’t been fully financially vetted,” Chirico told DuJour at his Manhattan office this fall. “That’s always been a premise of the company and we’ve kept that going. We strive to make sure that the business leaders sit next to financial partners, that they make the decisions together and understand the balance. Being a public company, our first responsibility is to the people who own the company; giving them the appropriate financial return and protecting the business.”
A critical task during Chirico’s time at the company has been adapting to the way people shop. “It can’t be what it was 10 years ago with big shops with hard walls and product and posters. Today its much more digital, it’s much more connected,” he says. “You want them to spend time with your brand. They then create an emotional connection with it, and there’s a comfort level with going back to the brand.”
In regards to the legacy brands’ celebrity endorsements and headline-grabbing campaigns, Chirico says that’s only part of the equation. “Lightening strikes when lightening strikes, and you can have these magic moments in a brand’s life,” says Chirico, citing Calvin Klein’s partnerships with Shields, Bieber, Marky Mark, and Kendall Jenner, as well as Gigi Hadid’s partnership with Tommy Hilfiger. “But you can’t count on that every year—it just doesn’t work that way. That’s why when you have something that really works, you must ask whether you can keep it going. And if it does have legs, how much can you drive it and still be fresh with the customer?”
As PVH looks toward 2018, they will soon announce new strategic partnerships for the spring that will undoubtedly bolster PVH—with Chirico at the helm—for the future. While he controls the company, and puts trust in the brand managers, Chirico ultimately leaves it up to consumers to determine the brand’s cultural impact. “Will there be magic moments like there were with Brooke Shields or Justin Bieber? I don’t know,” he says. “The consumer decides that.”