How Lewis Hamilton Became The Hardest Working Fashion Guy In The Room

By Adam Baidawi
26 March 2019
Lewis Hamilton, Tommy Hilfiger
ITP Images
F1 champion's collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger sees him storming through the fashion world

It’s 2019: everyone knows everyone. The game of six degrees of separation is pretty well irrelevant. A shrinking world, an uptick in flight routes, open DMs, and attached-to-the-hip phones mean your network can expand to, well, whoever the heck you want.

Meet Lewis Hamilton: one guy who gets this.

Hamilton knows that, however many poles you might secure, however many podiums you can hop on and gleefully spray bubbly foam from, going to the next level of personal-brand greatness requires leaving your comfort zone and leaning into curiosity. His curiosity was fashion. Luckily, he met his match.

1. Find Your Spark

Hamilton grew up watching MTV. As a teenager, he fancied the R&B star, Aaliyah. He remembers seeing her on television in her Tommy overalls. Then he noticed quite a few others he admired rocking Tommy.

“I was on the fashion circuit. I thought their shows were awesome. Just, different. They weren’t following the same path as everyone else.”
As years went by, something else caught Hamilton’s eye: the brand’s collaboration with Gigi Hadid.

“I find a lot of brands often want someone to be behind the product – they want you to just stand there with something,” he says. “Then I saw what they were
doing with Gigi. I loved how they were projecting her. They were supporting her. I thought that was a more genuine collaboration – because a lot of people say it’s a collab, but they’re not really collaborating.”

2. Make an Ally

Sometimes, you need a little serendipity. From there, it’s what you make of it.

“I was coming out of a building in New York City and heard someone shout my name, I turn around, and it’s Tommy Hilfiger. He said, ‘I love what you’re doing. I’d love to send you some clothes.’”

The two would bump into each other, around the world, over and over again.

“He was always so positive. He’d be more positive than pretty much anybody else that I’d ever met. And in the fashion world, I think that’s always a good thing.”

Then, the niceties turned into ideas.

“He started saying to me, ‘Hey, we should do something together.’ I’d already dreamt of it, but I didn’t think he was really serious. Then he kept asking.”

3. Come Prepared

This wasn’t going to be a phone-in collab – at least not if Hamilton had his say. Case in point: “For the first meeting, I brought bags of clothes. I had folders full of images. And I’d already sent them a bunch of images and things that I liked. I came super organised. I said, ‘These are the things I love.

These are the styles that I’ve worn before. We could do this with this style of jacket, or this material. The meeting went on for a lot longer than it was supposed to. And I booked a lot more meetings – they weren’t expecting that.”

4. Make the Time

Little-known fact: reaching (and maintaining) the status of a world champion athlete takes a reasonably large toll on your personal calendar. Add a high-profile fashion collaboration to the mix, and you’ll need to swerve into new workflows.

“[I worked] on flights and in cars. I was honestly so happy to do it. I wanted it to be the greatest it could be, so I gave it as much time as I could give,” says Hamilton. “I got this iPad, and I’d use the Apple Pencil to sketch a bunch of things – change this, change that – and I’d send it back. And it went back and forth, back and forth.”

Hamilton says he squeezed in his side hustle anywhere and everywhere he could.

“At Spa (where the Belgian Grand Prix is held), as soon as I was out of the car after practice, I’d be back in the garage sketching.”

5. Assert Yourself

Hamilton spends his day job working in a team of over 1000 people – he’s used to having an opinion.

“When I moved from my previous team, I arrived, and you have to ask questions. You can’t be shy and let things pass,” he says.

Naturally, he dipped his toes in the water, maintaining a healthy degree of humility through his Tommy Hilfiger collaboration.

“I didn’t approach it with all the confidence in the world. I took it like an internship – trying to be a sponge and learning everything from Tommy and the team around him. But then I’d throw something in there, like, ‘What do you think about this?’ Sometimes, it got shut down, and I was like, ‘Noted.’ But a lot of the time, they would either love the idea or were like, ‘Well, if we twist it like this, that idea would work.’ That’s a true collaboration.”