Tigerlily Hill dresses the stars

George Town boutique to feature her Crown Atelier line

For Tigerlily Hill, Cayman-born fashion designer and celebrity wardrobe stylist, female intuition has played an important part in her rise to international acclaim. “My strength lies in predicting trends,” she says. “I just know when something is going to be a best seller. It’s an instinct.”

This instinct has certainly been spot on so far. She tells Weekender she has just struck a deal with Arabus Boutique in George Town to carry her entire Crown Atelier line exclusively in the Cayman Islands (right now they have a few of her blouses).

Within a year of launching her own line of clothing, in 2005 she got her big break when her clothes were shown on US television on the E! channel. Since then, she has had a number of big names wear her designs, she has been on TV shows in the US, worked with bands to design their wardrobes and has many more exciting plans for the future.

However, it’s not just an instinct for the next big thing that has gotten her this far. It’s a combination of fashion sense and business savvy. Hill is not the airy fairy, dreamy creative type. While she undoubtedly has the imagination and skill to create original and innovative designs, she is also very aware of the need to manage the commercial side of her business. “When I design, I intend to sell. That is just the name of the game, that is how the business works,” she explains.

Tigerlily Hill was born and raised in the Cayman Islands and graduated from Cayman Islands High School (now John Gray). She knew she wanted to study fashion from an early age, but she explains that her parents insisted that she first complete a degree in business “just in case.” While they encouraged her to pursue what she loved, Hill explains that they also wanted to ensure their children had a decent, worldly education.

The business education was already evident in her decision to then go to London to study apparel manufacturing, rather than strictly fashion design. Sketching and designing are innate abilities, but she realised that the greater challenge was translating a drawing or concept into an actual garment, so she learned the process of getting the clothes made – and into stores.

Networking is key

A natural businesswoman, Hill knows the importance of marketing and promoting herself and her company. Like so many businesses, it is all about building contacts and getting the right people to wear your clothes. The creator of Crown Atelier, who splits her time between Cayman and Los Angeles, dedicates a great deal of effort to networking and raising awareness of her brand. She has appeared on the TV show Glam God and has plans to appear on another show later this year. It’s not something she particularly enjoys, she admits, but she knows all too well how important it is to keep herself on the radar and stay connected. She is keen to stress the importance of this: “If I were to advise young people wanting to get into the industry, I would tell them, you have to be friendly, you have to know how to network. Cultivate friendships with all sorts of people – you never know who might be able to help you.”

Hill returned to Cayman after completing her studies to work for the Monetary Authority and to gather her thoughts on how to create her own line of garments and enter the world of fashion design. When Hurricane Ivan destroyed her home, it gave her the impetus to move to Los Angeles, knowing that would be the best place to launch her collection and establish her business. She started out with a small collection of just 10 pieces. The blouses, made from delicate, sheer, colourful fabrics with her signature frills, have been popular from the outset and embody Crown Atelier’s style: fun but sophisticated, items that can just as easily be worn on the street, on the red carpet or at work.

Celebrity boost

As she has been happy to discover, “When a celebrity wears your clothes…sales will explode.” Kirsten Dunst, Jennifer Aniston, Faye Dunaway, Britney Spears and Hillary Duff are among the big names that have worn pieces from her collection. While it is immensely gratifying to see such public figures wearing her designs, and something many aspiring fashion designers can only dream of, Hill finds it even more rewarding when she sees people on the street wearing her clothes. Celebrities, she says, are often just trying to latch onto the next big thing, and the clothes have been put right under their nose. The person on the street who is wearing her clothes will have gone to a shop and chosen it. “That,” she says, “is a real compliment.”

Sixth sense

The dynamic and energetic Hill seems to have fingers in many pies.

In addition to designing and marketing Crown Atelier collections, she styles celebrity wardrobes, using her sixth sense for what is going to be big in the world of fashion, to tighten up the contents of celebrity wardrobes, making sure they have the essentials while giving them an individual twist.

The future is no less busy, with plans that include working on movie sets, as well as continuing to design.

But Cayman remains her real home, the place where her family and her friends live, and it is here that she would love to open a boutique.

“That is ultimately what I want to do because this is my home. I want my people to enjoy my clothes. I also want to design with them in mind and see local people wear my stuff.”

For more information or to see some of her creations, visit www.crownatelier.com

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Cristin Alexander, Miss Cayman 2010, models a white mix-mesh dress and swimsuit at the Crown Atelier runway show held in the Cayman Islands late last year.
Photo: Submitted
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