Everyone has to get their start somewhere, and billionaire fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger got his literally on the streets. Instead of going to design school or apprenticing for a fashion giant, Hilfiger and a high-school buddy sold jeans to their friends out of the trunk of their car.
Hilfiger told The Daily Telegraph that that was the start of his first foray into the fashion industry: a basement store called People’s Place that eventually grew into a small chain of stores. Hilfiger explains the beginning of his business thus:
What I really wanted was to look like the rock stars, with long hair and of-the-moment clothes. So in 1968, when I was 17, I saved $150 from working in a petrol station and with my friend Larry Stemerman bought 20 pairs of bell-bottomed jeans from the back streets of New York City. We drove them back to Elmira and sold them to our friends out of the boot of our car. A year later we opened the first People’s Place, a basement shop selling all sorts of hippie gear such as incense and candles as well as cool rock’n'roll-inspired clothes like the bell-bottoms … We started out on a shoestring but it became very successful and we subsequently opened a number of People’s Place shops around college campuses in upstate New York.
Hilfiger goes on to explain that People’s Place was successful for a few years — eventually, real rockstars started shopping there, not just people who wanted to look like them — but the business went under in 1975. Hilfiger came back with his own line in 1985, and today it’s worth billions. Not bad, eh?