Elizabeth Hilfiger and Ali Michael on Unzipped Flies and Surprise Parties
There is little daylight between the designer Elizabeth Hilfiger and Foo and Foo, her Los Angeles-based streetwear label. The brand even sports Hilfiger’s childhood nickname— “Foo”— borrowed from the mischievous rabbit in the nursery rhyme “Little Bunny Foo Foo.” “My dad ended up just calling me foo foo,” Hilfiger recalls, “because every time he would say it I would laugh, and he wanted to make me laugh.”
Hilfiger, daughter of Tommy, communicates a similar blend of mischief and sincerity in the label’s SS21 collection. Behind Foo and Foo’s non-gendered designs is a sincere commitment to a less-is-more sustainable mentality in a high-waste industry—Foo and Foo’s new season introduces FooCore, a loungewear collection made of 85% recycled materials including double-faced thermals, UV activated ink, melted plastic bottles mixed and industrial waste cotton. The campaign, shot by longtime collaborator Julian Klincewicz, features the model Ali Michael (Hilfiger’s friend), Avery Tucker (who produced the music for the campaign), and the choreographers JA Collective. The campaign video, above, is accompanied by an exclusive behind-the-scenes video which offers a glimpse into the making of SS21 (below). Hilfiger sat down with Michael to discuss all things Foo— from wardrobe malfunctions to why the label’s new hoodie (distinguished by its plexiglass mirror attachment) is the perfect solution for those of us who fear having food stuck in our teeth. In fact, it’s just the kind of unanticipated solution we’ve come to expect from the ever-evolving designer.
ALI MICHAEL: Should we go for it?
ELIZABETH HILFIGER: Let’s go for it. How did we meet? It was a dinner. I was at a family dinner, I think…
MICHAEL: It was on Easter. I was with Avery [Tucker, of Girlpool] and Harmony [Tividad, also of Girlpool] at her family’s place and we ran into each other for the first time as I was leaving.
HILFIGER: I had already wanted both of them to model for me, but I was nervous. So it was really nice to meet Ali for the first time.
MICHAEL: Because we had been emailing back and forth, right? You had told Avery that you wanted us to model.
HILFIGER: It was that awkward thing where you’re like, “Hey, I really think you’re cool and want to work with you.” I had a crush on you.
MICHAEL: I felt the same way about you. We met very briefly and then spoke for the first time at the fitting, right?
HILFIGER: Yeah, so we had this fitting at my house with the choreographers Jordan [Johnson] and Aidan [Carberry] it became a kind of dress rehearsal.
MICHAEL: It was really fun.
HILFIGER: I was playing really bad music the whole time.
MICHAEL: I wouldn’t call it bad, but maybe other people would. But that’s my favorite kind of music. I remember we talked about astrology and we realized that we’re both Taurus with Aquarius moons. So immediately I was like, “Okay, this is going to be good.”
HILFIGER: I was kind of scared, a little bit.
MICHAEL: Please tell me why.
HILFIGER: You’re intimidating and also, I was watching your Instagram lives and people are like, “I’m intimidated by you Ali.”
MICHAEL: I don’t know why that is.
HILFIGER: I think it’s your deadpan voice.
MICHAEL: That is true. I think that people find me hard to read sometimes. But once you get past that, I feel pretty approachable in reality.
HILFIGER: I liked you because you were laughing at me, with me. We drove together to the shoot.
MICHAEL: The car ride was like two and a half hours or something, I don’t know, I feel like that was actually when—
HILFIGER: You were freaking out about something.
MICHAEL: I was vulnerable. We kind of had some, yeah, we had some intensely emotional…
HILFIGER: DMC. Deep meaningful conversations.
MICHAEL: We did.
HILFIGER: And then I became your art director.
MICHAEL: My personal photographer. You did. We made some beautiful content that day. That was so fun. Now, lets talk about the hoodie!
HILFIGER: It’s a funny design, because I don’t really do makeup, or care much about my appearance. So it’s maybe kind of almost useless to have a mirror hoodie, but sometimes you do need it.
MICHAEL: It’s funny you bring that up, because I also don’t really do much makeup. I don’t really carry shit like that with me. But sometimes I do want to be able to see if there’s something in my teeth. I have a gap in between my two front teeth that is only large enough for like pieces of food to get stuck in, it’s not large enough to be really like a hot gap, but it’s just large enough for like a Sesame seed to get stuck in between my teeth. I feel like the mirror is really useful. I advocate for that item. It avoids any wardrobe malfunctions.
HILFIGER: What was your latest wardrobe malfunction?
MICHAEL: Well actually, as a matter of fact, today, it’s like 97 degrees in New York and I’m wearing shorts. They’re that kind of very short shorts. I know that my ass was hanging out of them while I was walking. I was just fine with that.
HILFIGER: I would be mad at that.
MICHAEL: [Laughs] I guess some people may not be into it, but I was. That’s a wardrobe malfunction that I’m open to.
HILFIGER: Don’t tell me you sat in the cab or a subway like that.
MICHAEL: I have not yet. But like, I’m open to it. Who’s to say it’s a malfunction? One person’s malfunction is another person’s treasure.
HILFIGER: I guess I didn’t really answer my wardrobe malfunction, did I?
MICHAEL: You didn’t.
HILFIGER: My hair always gets in my mouth when I’m eating.
MICHAEL: I wouldn’t call that a wardrobe malfunction.
HILFIGER: I mean, my button always comes out of my pants. It’s always a little unbuckled.
MICHAEL: I do have one pair of pants where I just, for some reason, always forget to zip them. Just always like it’s nearly guaranteed that the fly will be down when I wear this one pair of pants.
HILFIGER: That’s one of my peeves. Another one is that I don’t like flip flops.
MICHAEL: Really? I love flip flops.
HILFIGER: They really creep me out. I don’t like the way they feel on my feet. And I trip.
MICHAEL: You would hate my outfit today because I‘m wearing platform flip flops and shorts that stick to the cab seat. I’m your worst nightmare today.
HILFIGER: You’re that nightmare I always dreamed of. I also really dont like T-shirts that have a cut off sleeve, but it goes really low. I also really don’t like—
MICHAEL: Wow you’ve got a list.
HILFIGER: —when guys wear shorts at night.
MICHAEL: I disagree. I’m down with anything. The only thing that really, truly, deeply disturbs me is lint. I fucking hate lint, it’s like something that truly drives me insane. I always have a lint roller. I have a lint roller in my car, in my suitcase, and in my home. I deeply hate lint and I don’t understand how they haven’t invented a lint-resistant black fabric. I just don’t understand. Shouldn’t we be there? You know?
HILFIGER: Do you want to speak on Rudy [Romero, part of the campaign]? Explain him for us.
MICHAEL: I don’t know how to encapsulate him in a brief summary. He can’t be reduced.
HILFIGER: He’s an old gay man who—
MICHAEL: He retired a few years ago and ever since retiring, he hasn’t worn pants. He’s only worn a kilt every day.
HILFIGER: “When I left my job, I left my pants.”
MICHAEL: That’s his punchline. I love him. It was so fun, and we were in the most beautiful place. I don’t even know where we were, but it was gorgeous.
HILFIGER: It’s kind of cheesy, but we were all connecting with each other and the clothes, through the choreography.
MICHAEL: Also just clothing wise, I was a fan of Foo and Foo for a long time before we met. So doing the shoot blew my mind. Afterwards I went to the studio and with Avery and we picked out so many fucking clothes.
HILFIGER: We had a full three hour session.
MICHAEL: I’m so extremely grateful that we met that day. And that we connected so intensely. You helped plan my surprise birthday party very soon afterwards.
HILFIGER: Right after. I had my second vaccine just in time. I pulled through for my Ali.
MICHAEL: You did pull through, I loved having you there. Divine timing.