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The Tommy Bahama clothing line was born when apparel industry veterans Tony Margolis, Lucio Dalla Gasperina and Bob Emfield created an upscale clothing collection based on their dream of the perfect lifestyle.
Margolis and Emfield reportedly first conceived the Tommy Bahama brand while at their vacation homes on Florida's GulfCoast. It was designed to conjure an island attitude--"one long weekend." The name, by one account attributed to Emfield, referred to a fictional character living the good life in the tropics, decked out in classy but relaxed versions of "Hawaiian" shirts and khakis. Silk was a favored material since the quality, fit and feel represented the lifestyle they were trying to convey.
The company motto was simply, "Relax," and it was an appealing mantra. The three men created a line of casual, fun-in-the-sun sportswear in 1992, naming it after an imaginary character, Tommy Bahama, who lives the perfect life of leisure.
We hear earfuls about Tommy. People love him. They all agree that he's smart. Virile. Debonair. They don't all agree on the details of his life, however. Some say he resides in the Bahamas, while others think he lives in Hawaii. He owns two vintage convertibles. Goes fishing daily. Travels a lot. And has a secluded home on a quiet island. What a life.
It's said that this tanned enigma has Jimmy Buffett's blood pressure and Gary Cooper's bearing. Such equanimity comes in handy. For a guy whose watchword is relax, Tommy's plate is full. His tastes and preferences are the basis of a lifestyle brand created by Viewpoint International Inc., a nine-year-old company with sales estimated at more than $300 million. Like Martha Stewart, Tommy oversees every choice made in his name, from distribution to product design to advertising.
The punch line (as perhaps you've guessed) is that Tommy is not a real person. He is a fictional character devised in 1992 by three flesh-and-blood entrepreneurs to develop their brand -- the Tommy Bahama line of merchandise, which includes clothing, accessories, home furnishings, and more. The company's three founders debate "What would Tommy do?" whenever they consider a key business decision. Does he golf? Yes. Does he own an overcoat? No way. Does he own a tie? That last question provoked a feud, which only underlines the obsessiveness that has become the hallmark of this company. "One of the reasons we've been a success is that we know what came first," says cofounder Bob Emfield, 59, a grave Minnesotan with sharp features and silver hair. "This guy came first. He has a strong personality, and we cater to him."
Tommy Bahama represents the perfect lifestyle, the perfect vacation and the perfect choice in extraordinary clothing. This is the life!