Style - Hooked on a Feeling

Tommy Bahama takes its design cues from the way we live

Tommy Bahama fashions look like the way we want to live.

J. Everette Perry

“Make Life One Long Weekend” would be a great motto for one of our desert cities — except it’s already taken. As any Tommy Bahama aficionado can tell you, the phrase guides the way the lifestyle brand lives and breathes. “Our aesthetic represents escape for a lot of people, and I think many of them have an emotional connection to the tropical experiences they’ve had,” says Rob Goldberg, Tommy Bahama’s senior vice president of marketing. “But it’s a delicate balance to deliver that aesthetic without being too literal and crossing over to a place that doesn’t feel real.

“We have a broad range of consumers who are passionate about the brand,” he continues. “And as we celebrate our 20th anniversary this year, we’re seeing a second generation of Tommy Bahama enthusiasts.”

While the company’s clothing lines have evolved to include the younger set, the brand’s idea of the tropical aesthetic has also evolved. “We’ve repurposed it into different things that aren’t so literally tropical,” Goldberg says. “There’s a coastal vibe in some of our clothing that’s playful and fun, and we have a great denim line. You also see the change in our newer store designs.”

At the Palm Desert store on El Paseo, the recently remodeled upstairs restaurant better incorporates its desert surroundings. Designers removed the latticework to open up the views to the valley. “Looking out and seeing all the palm trees, you feel like it’s an oasis — almost a mirage — and we wanted to incorporate that into the design.”

This sense of authenticity is key to Tommy Bahama’s success, and it surfaces in almost every aspect of the business. “We can have an hour-long argument about what button is right for a shirt,” Goldberg says. “The consumer might not be able to articulate the nuances of what they’re seeing, but they feel it.”

While some Tommy Bahama clothing is geared toward that second generation of customers, individuals in the 40s, 50s, and 60s are also dressing younger than they were 10 years ago. “Fashion is definitely moving much faster now,” he says. “People are more informed about what’s current, so we try not to think of things in terms of an age bracket, but more in relation to how people live their lives.”

For men, there’s a new line called Square Label that’s more fitted, as well as Paradise Tech, a line of weekend wear.

The company’s women’s wear designers seek inspiration each season by imagining a time period and location — 1960s Morocco was the muse for their fall collection.

As part of its focus on being a lifestyle brand, the company recently opened the first Tommy Bahama home store in Newport Beach. The furniture is available in Indio at Mathis Brothers, while accessories such as candles, glassware, barware, and table linens are carried in Tommy Bahama’s Palm Desert boutique.

With its 20th anniversary year in full swing, the company is giving away a series of trips and other prizes as part of a “Paradise Goes Platinum” campaign. For Mother’s Day, the winner of the company’s “Mom Cave” contest may find herself one step closer to enjoying life as one long weekend after her house is custom designed with Tommy Bahama furniture and home products.

Models: Amanda Osman and Kevin Smith; Hair and makeup: Aide Lopez;  Fashion assistant: Sarah Nezamzadeh ; Location: Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Café, The Gardens on El Paseo, Palm Desert

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