When one thinks of a power couple certain images come to mind. It’s a striking pair, typically equally matched in looks, business, success and society. It’s easy to imagine what that looks like—the homes, the vacations, the beautiful photos. Sure these people are power couples by every basic definition of the term. However, when you gaze beyond what is synonymous with how our culture defines a power couple, you may discover a couple that relies less on the materialistic qualities to define them, and perhaps something rarer is revealed— a value for time, synchronicity in life and alignment in values. By the first definition we could discuss countless couples, but by the second we are referring to Tommy Hilfiger and Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger.
Of course it goes without saying that at first glance this incredible pair would satisfy the first definition, as well. It’s the second definition that differentiates them as a couple and has captivated the public for over a decade. The couple met in 2005, and both recall the initial attraction to one another. They were married by 2008. Tommy reveals when they first met, “We were in St. Tropez. I met her, I met her son. I knew her son was very similar to my daughter who wasn’t with me. We struck up a conversation about what life was like, living with a child with special needs. We are both very sympathetic to families who live with this.” Here, Tommy is referring to their children, both on the autism spectrum. Love of family is evident when you think of the Hilfigers, but it also took a deeper meaning for Tommy and Dee who both have had similar experiences in raising children with special needs. They talk of each other as parents and partners proudly. Most wonder how a power couple with demanding lifestyles and businesses can manage it all.
Balancing a marriage and life is work for even the best-intentioned couples. There is something that seems so effortless between these two. What is the recipe to their successful marriage? Dee says, “We enjoy a lot of the same things and don’t do a lot of things separately.” She goes on to explain, “Respect number one,” adding, “Trust and a really good sense of humor! We also share a lot of common interests; for instance we love to ski together. We are a couple that he doesn’t go off and do a lot separately. We move around as a unit. We are a team, definitely a team. With all the kids and the businesses, you need someone by your side that you trust and can be a sounding board and gets you. It’s very reassuring to have that person with you.”
With all the shared interests of fashion and business they have in common, the strongest and most sincere bond is definitely caring for their children together. Blending their families has been a joy for them. Their families have come together and at times it has been a juggling act, but when you’re a power couple like Tommy and Dee you know how to juggle and to support each other. These qualities are especially evident as they both lead some of the world’s most iconic brands. Tommy Hilfiger’s namesake fashion empire will turn 35 next year, and the age is not showing. The brand is as fresh and vibrant as ever. “The business is growing and we keep disrupting,” Tommy says. “We are moving ahead with digitalization, social media and collaborations. Creating the stores of the future or our fashion shows, which are really ‘see now, buy now’ events.” When he introduced his “Tommy Now,” model a couple years ago, Tommy successfully reinvigorated the industry and disrupted the tedious year-long cycle of design-present-manufacture, offering a more streamlined, instantaneous approach. Tommy credits this “In part to millennial desires. They want immediate gratification, great experiences, authenticity, transparency but most importantly immediate gratification. Our Customer doesn’t want to wait. They want to buy it, especially when they see it on a Gigi Hadid or a Zendaya. So we changed it… we made it available in real time. It’s a big movement, I think the fashion industry will follow. We want to keep it relevant and young!”
To her credit Dee is also making huge waves in the industry with her own accessible line of fashion for women and men, which shares her name, Dee Ocleppo. She is also co-owner and creative director of Judith Leiber. The drive, ambition and determination to make her own mark on the competitive fashion industry was an easy choice for Dee. “I love having my own brand, my own identity,” Dee reveals. She also reminds us, “One of the draw backs of being Tommy Hilfiger’s wife is being labeled that and getting lost in that. People tend to overlook you. I am here. It’s my mission to fight it, not fall into the shadows.”
It is exactly that mentality that has earned her the success she forged herself. Then, with her true, humble nature, Dee explains, “Starting a brand is not for the weak of mind or weak of wallet. It’s very challenging, but I continue to forge ahead, because I have the right team behind me… my CEO, my head consultant. I have a lot of support. You learn as you go along what’s working, what’s not working. It’s the fun part. I love the challenge.”
Dee certainly rises to the challenge. If it was not evident in her built-from-the-ground-up label, take notice of the precise hand she has had at revamping Judith Leiber, while still honoring the heritage of the beloved brand. “When I came on with Judith Leiber everyone said, ‘my grandmother has this bag, my grandmother has that bag,” recalls Dee. “You have to continue on, you have to move forward with what is changing. Young people want different things. I don’t think young girls want to carry floral baskets. Make it cooler, hipper, more tongue and cheek. The boom box, the brick phone, the Lamborghini — you have to think how other people are thinking, what is relevant to them.”
The passion and care with which they live has made them successful in business and family. They are present, they are intentional and above all they are united. They both agree that “We have priorities. We always have the priority of putting the children first, then everything falls into place after that. We are very similar. We like the same things— art, architecture, fashion, pop culture… very much connect that way.” Dee concludes by offering, “We always try to balance our lives. Prioritize. We are always a little out of balance, because of travel, so we try to make as much out of being home as possible.” When you’re with Tommy and Dee you cannot overstate it, home, and together, is definitely where the heart is.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: ANTOINE VERGLAS (READ ALL ABOUT HIM HERE)