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Tommy Hilfiger: Telepresence fits global fashion brand to a teeEnquire now
Innovative video-based Virtual Fitting Room from BT makes Tommy Hilfiger a smarter, greener business
Leading the way in international fashion meant a lot of globe-trotting for people in the Tommy Hilfiger Group. But hours in transit added up to missed family events, jet lag and big hotel and travel bills. That is, until Fred Gehring called in BT.
Now a made-to-measure HD video conferencing facility – the Virtual Fitting Room – equips everyone to see and share the latest designs, fabrics and samples in an instant, wherever in the world they are. Fred and his team can move far faster in a fast-moving industry. And with fewer flights, road miles and courier deliveries, it's greener too.
We were impressed by the knowledge and experience of the BT team. This, combined with the creative solution they designed with Cisco, made the decision easy.”
- Fred Gehring, CEO, Tommy Hilfiger Group
The Tommy Hilfiger Group is a £2.5 billion global clothing and retail company. Its premium lifestyle brands include Tommy Hilfiger, Hilfiger Denim, and Hilfiger Sport. The company distributes its products through leading department stores and specialist retailers in over 65 countries across Europe, the United States, South America, and Asia. It also operates over 900 of its own retail stores around the world.
Under the guidance of founder and chief designer Tommy Hilfiger, the design process is central to the group’s continuing success. In the fast-moving fashion industry that process must be agile enough to consistently produce the right designs, for the right price, and – most crucially – at the right time.
The Tommy Hilfiger worldwide headquarters is located in Amsterdam in the Netherlands but, with operations across the globe, the company’s employees were spending a lot of time travelling the world – attending meetings, sourcing fabrics, reviewing designs, and approving samples.
Marcella Wartenbergh, a Tommy Hilfiger Vice President based in Holland, recalls: “Some months we would spend 15 days just travelling from one site to another. I used to miss out on everything from management meetings to family birthday parties.” All that travelling was expensive and inefficient. In addition to the direct cost of flights, hotels, and expenses there was also the hidden cost of wasted and ineffective time, not to mention a crucial speed-to-market penalty for new products.
It wasn’t just the people who spent a lot of time on the road. When fabrics and designs needed to be approved, there was the expense and delay of sending samples by international courier. Comments and alterations were interpreted (and sometimes misinterpreted) from written instructions. Often a new design would travel back and forth several times before it could be approved.
The Group already had some video conferencing facilities but had not fully embraced their use because of the limited capabilities of legacy technology. Competitive pressures and the global financial crisis caused Tommy Hilfiger to look again.
Mike Day, CIO at Tommy Hilfiger, explains: “We noticed that, compared with our existing video conferencing systems, recent advances in technology had significantly improved the experience. Higher capacity networks eliminate time lag and enable larger HD images and crystal clear audio. This really gives the feeling of everyone being in the same room – a significant improvement on what we were used to.”
The Tommy Hilfiger Group talked to BT Global Services in Benelux together with specialists from BT Conferencing. The result was a five-year contract for a managed telepresence solution.
Called the Virtual Fitting Room this video conferencing innovation – made to measure by BT for Tommy Hilfiger – connects locations in Amsterdam, New York, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. People simply step into virtual meeting rooms and effortlessly work with colleagues on the other side of the world. They can even call in from home with a laptop and webcam.
Enabling the Tommy Hilfiger design teams – based in Amsterdam and New York – to collaborate faster and more effectively with each other and with the manufacturing team in Hong Kong, the Virtual Fitting Room means they hardly ever have to take a flight. Multiple cameras and large HD screens mean a fitting in one location can be experienced by designers elsewhere as if they were in the same room. Because design is all about detail, the Virtual Fitting Room features a handheld camera that allows participants to zoom in to view and discuss a logo, button, or even a single stitch.
Mike Day says: “Imagine the benefit of that real time decision-making process, compared with trying to explain your requirements in writing.”
Based on the BT Unified Communications Video architecture, the Virtual Fitting Room uses Cisco hardware. It includes BT One Source, a complete managed service wrap featuring automated video conference scheduling and video conference launching. BT One Source also includes on-site maintenance, 24*7 helpdesk support, pro-active system monitoring, and remote diagnostics.
The Virtual Fitting Room has totally transformed the creative process – enabling more people to be involved, more regular collaboration between teams, greatly reduced time-to-market, and a truly interactive approval process. Furthermore, the facility is available for all manner of management meetings, bringing big benefits to all areas of the Group. Mike Day quantifies the effect: “The return on investment of the system is estimated to be just 18 months. That’s based on direct costs alone.”
With substantial savings in international travel and couriers, and a reduced carbon footprint, more global locations will be added in due course.
Mike Day concludes: “The Virtual Fitting Room has created a transformed working environment in which creativity can flourish, while the time-to-market for new designs is dramatically shortened. It saves money, improves work life balance, and makes us a more sustainable business.”
- Virtual Fitting Room managed telepresence solution custom designed for Tommy Hilfiger based on the BT Unified Communications Video architecture with Cisco hardware from the BT One Collaborate portfolio
- BT One Source offering automated video conference scheduling and video conference launching, on-site maintenance, 24*7 helpdesk support, pro-active system monitoring, and remote diagnostics.