Unique Quality Styling For Men and Women Is Hallmark of Hiltons Princeton Studio/Store
FAMILY FOCUS: “We have had nearly 20 years of uninterrupted growth, and we look forward to that continuing. How people dress and how they look is important, and it can also be a sign of respect for others.” Nick Hilton, co-owner of Hiltons Princeton, the longtime men’s and women’s clothing store, is proud that his daughter Catherine Hilton, vice president, is the latest generation to be a part of the family business. They are shown in the women’s department.
By Jean Stratton
Hiltons Princeton is here to stay!
Despite COVID-19, the challenges of online shopping competition, and the doubt and disillusion that have pervaded 2020, this brick-and-mortar business continues to fulfill its destiny: offering the finest quality and styling in men’s and women’s clothing, accompanied by superb customer service and personal attention.
Located at 221 Witherspoon Street, Hiltons was opened by Nick Hilton in 2001. Initially, it was exclusively a men’s store, but in response to public demand, women’s clothing was added 12 years ago, and president and co-owner Jennifer Hilton became buyer and manager of the women’s department. The married couple soon became a vibrant force in Princeton fashion.
“I love the fashion business,” says Jennifer Hilton. “I like to help people put an outfit together, and I love my customers! They come in regularly to see what’s new, and we always have something to show them. They are all ages and come from all over the Princeton area.”
Nick Hilton also enjoys the opportunity to help a man select the right clothes, focusing on the best look for that individual.
“I like to help a guy have more confidence and self-esteem. This can happen when he has the right clothes. We have a certain knack for helping him to coordinate. Sometimes, the hardest thing for a man is to get trousers, sport coat, tie, etc. into a coordinated look.”
At Hiltons Princeton, gentlemen of today can achieve a look that combines elegance and comfort and is also unique. Classic American-styled clothes are highlighted, and Nick Hilton is a master of customized menswear, featuring comfortable elegance.
The award-winning stylist represents the fourth generation of his family to dress American men. The client list includes U.S. presidents, statesmen, captains of industry, entertainers, and sports figures. Hilton designs have been featured in GQ Magazine, among others.
“My great-grandfather Joseph Hilton and his brother came from Russia in the 1880s, and started a custom tailoring shop,” recalls Nick. “They opened a series of shops, called Joseph Hilton & Sons, and eventually, there were 10 stores in New York and New Jersey.
”My grandfather Alex Hilton and my father Norman Hilton continued in the business. After graduating from Princeton and serving in the Navy in World War II, my father later created the Norman Hilton Country Line. He established a wholesale business that we never had before.”
Nick wasn’t quite sure whether to follow in the fashion footsteps of his forebears, but in fact, the interest was there, and he started out in Italy, working for a trouser manufacturer. When he returned to the U.S., he became a salesman for the family business, and found that he was to wear many hats.
“By 1975, I was head stylist, buyer, and salesman, and in 1980, I became president of the company,” he says.
Having moved to Princeton in 1980, he was familiar with the menswear business here, and in 2001, he decided to open his own studio. It was clearly the right move: over the next 20 years, the business has grown and grown. Sportswear alone is up 25 percent in recent years.
Everything that a man needs to dress well is offered at Hiltons Princeton. Sport coats, trousers, shirts (dress and casual), sweaters, ties, shoes, socks, and gloves are on display, and suits are also available, when needed for a wedding or other special events.
Important lines at the store include Canali, Hickey Freeman, Eton (shirts), Meyer (trousers), Kinross Cashmere (knitwear), and Herno for outerwear.
The quality is superb, from the butter-soft leather gloves to the smoothest cashmere sweaters. Sweaters are also available in alpaca and other wool, and in different styles, including mock cardigan and sleeveless as well as traditional pullovers.
“We have a big variety of trousers, including those that are more lightweight, and with a better fit,” explains Rob Rencarge, sales and administrative associate in the men’s department. “Also, there are trousers styled like jeans. And, there is a terrific water repellant cashmere outerwear jacket by Gilet.”
In addition, he points out intriguing corduroy jackets with an unusually narrow wale, adding that new types of fabrics and designs are always on the horizon. “Nick’s knowledge of textiles is amazing!”
Helping people look their best is always the priority at Hiltons, and this includes making sure the fit is just right, points out Nick, who is quick to say, “We have the world’s best tailor. Par Thia Hniang has been with us for 14 years, and she is absolutely the best.”
Personal service is another priority, and the store is noted for its congenial atmosphere and helpful staff, points out longtime customer and Princeton resident Joshua Markowitz.
“My first recollection of being engaged with the Hilton family was 35 years ago, when I got the first expensive piece of clothing I ever bought: a navy blazer from Norman Hilton.
“What was very important in my life was 20 years later, when I was fortunate enough to walk into Nick’s store and meet him and Par Thia. It’s one thing to buy clothes, and then in addition, to have someone there to make your clothes look good on you.”
That same level of customer service is evidenced in the women’s department, which was recently renovated to become a more open and brighter backdrop to display the outstanding array of beautiful women’s choices.
Sophisticated, elegant, tailored clothing that their customers enjoy wearing are the focus of the women’s department, notes Jennifer Hilton. “Our clothes are fashionable but wearable, and I love to help people coordinate an outfit. There is so much out there, it can be confusing.
“The best designers are always creating new fabric and new fashion,” she continues. “And you can be fashionable at any age. You constantly move on to a new phase, a new look. It’s about what is appropriate for you. Every customer has a unique experience and a unique life. We try to fill her fashion needs and help her find a flattering look that suits her figure.”
Hilton’s carries an array of the best designers, offering varied styles in many categories. Among them: MaxMara, known for gorgeous coats as well as wonderful sweaters and washable suede leggings; also, Amina Rubinacci for the finest knitwear and fabrics from Italy, including sweaters and jackets that feel like air. Armani is also noted for beautifully made knitwear, and Cambio offers one of the best pants line in the business. Printed pants, joggers, and jeans. A fit for everyone!
In addition, there are new lines from Moschino, White Sands, gentryportofino, Ireland’s Eye, and many more.
There has been a natural evolution into more casual dress, reports Jennifer Hilton, but with the arrival of COVID-19, the call for comfortable clothing has been re-emphasized. “People really want comfortable clothes now. Comfort is clearly key. What is especially popular now are leggings and a variety of comfortable pants, including cashmere lounging-type pants that are big favorites.”
When one does step outside, however, Hiltons has the best fashion forward ideas. Wonderful sweater/jackets that look like a jacket but feel like a sweater. In silver and also darker shades, these are in great demand.
Outerwear is very popular now, and the Italian Herno line of coats is a big seller. “They are extremely lightweight but very warm, with a chic A-line style,” says Jennifer. “There are also jackets which are versatile with a removable inner lining, and we have the Herno line of cap sleeve vests, also very lightweight, but warm. Light as a feather!”
Cashmere is highly desirable with Hiltons customers, she adds, pointing out the selection of cashmere scarves from Italy. “These have gorgeous designs, and they are so versatile. They can be worn outside over a coat or inside, as they are so lightweight.
“We also have cashmere sweaters in different weights, and they are all popular. We already have some for spring, very lightweight in pretty pastel designs.”
Among the loyal customers, who come in regularly, there are also gentlemen shoppers, seeking gifts for wives and lady friends, notes Jennifer. “Men come in, and if their wives or girlfriends shop here, then we will know their sizes and tastes, and the men appreciate this.
“We really have a very loyal clientele,” she adds. “They know they can rely on our advice and guidance. They’ll ask ‘Is this good to wear on a plane, or for a trip?’ They value our opinion. They have really made our store possible, and they have become our friends.”
“I enjoy coming in every day,” Jennifer continues. “We love clothes here! And I love working with my family. It’s just like home, and it’s fun!”
Family, of course, not only includes husband Nick, but also daughter Catherine, who joined the business in 2015 after a seven-year career as a stylist in the Ralph Lauren advertising department.
“I always knew I’d be in the clothing business,” says, Catherine Hilton, “and I couldn’t resist the offer to have a real hands-on position at our own company — as well as getting to hang out with my family. We’re very close, so I feel lucky.”
In addition to her role overseeing the digital aspects of Hiltons, Catherine works with Jennifer as buyer and manager in the women’s department. Her father points out that Catherine’s comprehensive high tech knowledge was exceptionally valuable to their digital operation. “Catherine re-created our website. She really created the website to be totally integrated with our inventory.”
Along with sales and administrative associate Rachel Herr, Jennifer and Catherine keep the women’s department flourishing.
“We wear many hats in a small, hands-on company like ours,” points out Catherine. “We have customers of all kinds, but our predominant business is with people looking for great service. Many of our customers have been shopping here since my mom opened the women’s department.
“I would say that we’re personal stylists — with a store! We are clothiers through and through. Our end goal is to help you feel and look your best. We help instill confidence. We ensure that your clothes reflect your best self. Not only do we put outfits together, we make sure they fit well and are flattering. Everything we do is for our customers. We find new brands for different figure types, and we are up on all the new styles in keeping with sensibility of the modern Princeton woman.
“It means a lot to me to be continuing the Hilton tradition as a clothier. I’m very proud of our heritage and our history.”
The Hilton family business is definitely intact, and the owners have been encouraged as customers returned after the store had been closed several months due to the virus. Full safety precautions are in place at the store, and customers and staff are very careful.
The Hilton family looks forward to many more years serving its clientele with high quality clothing and superior personal service.
“Quality depends on three things,” explains Nick Hilton. “One, it should stand the test of time and be durable and classic. Two, comfort is key. The garment should move with you, and the texture should be comfortable and pleasant to wear. Three, it should be aesthetically beautiful and include classical elements, such as color tone (a palette of colors that go together), content, and composition.
“People who want quality, who understand the durability, beauty, and comfort of a garment know that it is worth the money, and are willing to spend it,” he adds. “And, it is really only in a specialty store that you can get that kind of quality today.”
Customers are happy to know that both the Hiltons men’s and women’s departments continue to flourish, emphasizing that there is always a market for excellent quality, style, workmanship, and personal service.
Hiltons Princeton offers gift cards, and is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment. (609) 921-8160. Website:.hiltonsprinceton.com.