Hilfiger's Reality Show 'The Cut' to Debut

Along with putting his name on clothing, Tommy Hilfiger (search) is now putting his name on "The Cut." (search)

But the designer mogul doesn't want viewers calling his new reality show (premiering 8 p.m. EST Thursday on CBS) a knockoff of Bravo's hit "Project Runway."

"'Project Runway' (search) was about designing clothes," Hilfiger told The Associated Press. "This isn't just about designing clothes. This is about designing way beyond that."

Think: "The Apprentice" without the stuffy business suits.

Not all the colorful 16 contestants — chosen by CBS casting directors, not Hilfiger — are fashion designers. There's a Miss Minnesota and a restaurateur. The first challenge doesn't even involve duds. Instead, the two teams are tasked with crafting eye-catching Times Square billboards.

"While I've been building this global lifestyle brand, I have been involved in everything from fashion to sports to Hollywood to the music world," said Hilfiger. "I've been very involved in surrounding the brand with pop culture."

Hilfiger's once-hot preppy threads, accessories and home furnishings business has chilled in recent years. Last month, he consolidated his New York operations into one building; in January, his company slashed 200 jobs.

"The Cut" winner will be a bit luckier, earning $250,000 salary and getting to design his or her own line under the Hilfiger label.

"If you've ever turned on TV, opened a magazine or gone shopping, you know who I am," Hilfiger boasts at the beginning of the first episode.

Don't mistake his ego for attitude. Although Hilfiger's first interaction with the aspiring designers is a fussy critique of their outfits, he's more subdued than other reality TV czars. No Trumpian firings or Tyra tirades here. Hilfiger, who's daughter Ali onced starred in her own MTV reality show titled "Rich Girls," insists the contestants fashion all the drama — not him.

"I am me," Hilfiger told the AP. "I can't change that. I believe I'm very fair. I'm serious about the business. I love creativity. I also love thinking outside the box. I don't really tolerate any backstabbing or negative behavior because. At the end of the day, the person I'm choosing from all this has got to help guide my company to the next level."

Some of the contestants do have designs on backstabbing. In the first episode, one man steals a clothing rack on wheels from the women's bedroom in their SoHo abode, inciting one to scream, "You're driving me to drink." Later, another contestant attempts to take credit for an idea that clearly wasn't her own.

"They had some outbursts in front of me sometimes," Hilfiger said. "The first time I just listened. The second time I told them to get over it."