Nowadays, celebrities modeling for huge clothing companies is nothing major. But according to Tommy Hilfiger and associates, when Aaliyah became a spokesmodel for the brand in 1996, she was the first R&B act to land a major endorsement as such. She set the bar high and created a style that’s still relevant today. Without Aaliyah, Hilfiger’s women’s line would have never expanded.
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Aaliyah 2000 | KMazur/WireImage
Aaliyah was a huge fan of Tommy Hilfiger
Aaliyah’s style was unlike any of her teenage peers at the time of her debut. She was tomboyish, yet still feminine. While Brandy and Monica wore heels and evening gowns in photoshoots and on red carpets, Aaliyah dressed down and preferred comfortability. She told MTV that her fashion choices were intentional to create an overall unique look.
Aaliyah 1997 | Chris Walter/WireImage
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“I wanted something to set myself apart from everyone else in my music and style because everyone else is so similar,” she said. In a 1994 interview with the network, she elaborated more on her personal style and how it related to her personality and sound.
“I’m mellow so my style matches that,” she said. “I am a laid back person, which is what I portray on camera. It’s not much of a difference so that’s why it’s so easy.”
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One of her favorite brands to wear was Tommy Hilfiger. The sporty attire was popular among the hip hop community for its bold colors. Rappers had already promoted the brand in their music and wore their clothes on stage, including Snoop Dogg during a 1994 performance on SNL. Hilfiger took notice and began gifting rappers who loved their clothes thousands of dollars of free merchandise and the brand took off.
At the time, Aaliyah was one of the only female R&B singers to don the brand as it fit her mold. The clothes were baggy, yet she found special ways to dress them up with accessories and her signature long, sleek hair with a swooped bang and dark shades.
Tommy Hilfiger made Aaliyah a model and designed a women’s clothing line with her in mind
Aaliyah’s best friend, Kidada Jones, eventually became a stylist for Hilfiger and also worked as Aaliyah’s stylist. Andy Hilfiger told Complex Magazine in a 2016 interview that he got a call from Aaliyah’s label who let him know that she was interested in modeling. Andy was familiar with Aaliyah’s look and knew she was a supporter of the brand and decided to put her in an ad.
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“What Aaliyah really did was show this style, the sexy but sporty-chic style. She brought this swagger, this sexiness. It was just incredible. We created a new look with Aaliyah, and that look is still popular today,” Andy said. The success of the campaign led to the brand incorporating more women’s gear into the line, as they’d previously only had a handful of items and prior to Aaliyah’s custom pieces, she donned their menswear line.
Dawton Thomas, an Editor in Chief at VIBE Magazine, felt Aaliyah as the chosen spokesperson made the most sense.
E! celebrates 30 years with rare video of Aaliyah ⏮ . This was filmed during the iconic photoshoot for
tommyhilfiger’s “Next Generation Jeans” campaign (April 1997) . Her mother, Diane, also speaks on Aaliyah and how proud she is of her . Thank you to
enews for always giving us clips of #Aaliyah and giving her the acknowledgment and exposure she deserves today . What’s your favourite part of the video? . #enews #interview #teamaaliyah #new #throwback #90s #flashback #rewind #tommyhilfiger #fashion #videooftheday #aaliyahsgems
A post shared by Aaliyah’s Gems ✨ (
“It makes sense that she’s the one that took their women’s wear to a whole ‘nother level. The oversized jeans, sports bra, and no waist: It worked,” Thomas said.
Aaliyah launched the brand’s jean line in a national commercial ad. She also shot a variety of print ads and walked confidently on red carpets in Hilfiger.