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Tommy Hilfiger Selects Chris Cortez as "The Next Great American Designer"

Selected from a fiercely competitive group of sixteen talented contestants, Chris Cortez, MFA Graphic Design student at the Academy of Art University, was named last night by Tommy Hilfiger as the winner of CBS's hit reality show, The Cut. Cortez's fashion talents earned him a $250,000 salaried position with Hilfiger's company. Cortez will also be given the opportunity to design his own fashion line under the Hilfiger line.


Chris Cortez (Image: CBS)

The Cut was billed by Hilfiger as his "search for the next great American designer." During the show's run, Cortez and the other contestants competed in assignments that measured their ability to use their natural talents and expertise to succeed in real world situations mirroring those of Hilfiger's. As is the norm with this type of reality show, those who failed to make "the cut" each week were sent packing until only Cortez and two others remained. The final competition involved crafting a display window for Macy's Herald Square location in New York City.

In proclaiming Cortez the winner, Hilfiger noted to Cortez, "The way you blend classic and traditional styles together with the fashion of the street is very interesting."

Cortez, currently a resident of San Francisco, was born and raised in Connecticut. He has co-founded a successful hat-making and fashion company called Christopher Thomas. Chris's initial study on people's various response to hats "generated ideas about the role of hats, and fashion in general, in creating and defining identity," says Cortez. "Hats are icons of identity."

With that in mind, Cortez joined forces with his best friend, Thomas Bepko, and founded Christopher Thomas with the intention of creating and selling hats that would "speak to a humongous variety of people in all walks of life."

"I want seventeen-year-old Asians to wear these hats. I want fifty-year old women pulling weeds in their backyards to wear these hats," Cortez explains.

Asked to describe his hats, Cortez offers, "They are nostalgic, classic patterns with a contemporary edge, driven by quality but aesthetically pleasing."

"This couldn't have happened without my MFA training," Chris says. "My training in Graphic Design gives us a huge advantage over other businesses. With what I've learned at school, I am able to create our design identity — everything from brochures, the Web site, the logo, to business cards. It makes us more flexible, quicker, and saves money, because I can do it all in-house."

Cortez wants other MFA students to know that their final thesis projects should be something they truly care about. "The MFA should intertwine with your life. It should be a marriage of your passions, not a separation. It should be something that allows you to express what you want to say in life."

Christopher Thomas hats can be found at retail locations in the United States and Japan. Christopher Thomas's online outlet is at www.wishchristopherthomas.com.

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