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Shawn Mendes may be taking a break from touring, but the artist has found a new creative outlet in the fashion space, thanks to a new partnership with Tommy Hilfiger.
Released last week, the Tommy x Shawn Classics Reborn collection features 28 pieces for men and women designed with “modern prep at its heart.” While the pieces take cues from nostalgic outfits (reworked in contemporary cuts), nods to sustainability abound with the use of materials made from recycled textile waste and reprocessed fibers.
The accompanying campaign features Mendes modeling his favorite pieces, alongside his sister Aaliyah (making her fashion campaign debut), and friends like singer-songwriter Jon Vinyl, producer Mike Sabath, and artist Ahmad Cissé.
For Mendes, who first appeared in a Tommy Hilfiger campaign last year, the chance to partner with the brand on a capsule collection was seemingly predestined. “I’m pretty sure the first article of clothing I saw after I was born was Tommy,” he says. “My mom was just completely decked out in the brand [and] if you see any photos of my parents from like 1998 to 2005, it’s full Tommy, all the time. It was just in my DNA.”
Hilfiger, meantime, says the chance to introduce his pieces to a new generation of fans was part of the “Classics Reborn” appeal. But it was meeting Mendes that really helped to cement his vision.
“When I first met Shawn, I liked him right away as a person,” the designer tells Rolling Stone, “but I didn’t want to work with someone who was [just] nice,” he says. “Shawn has heart and soul, and you know that it’s not fake. He’s authentic.”
Rolling Stone sat down for a candid conversation with Hilfiger and Mendes, to talk about the inspiration behind the new collection, the pressures of keeping up appearances, and where to find creativity when you feel creatively tapped out.
How did this collection come about, Shawn? What made you want to work with Tommy?
Shawn Mendes: I was going through this phase on Pinterest where I was looking at celebrities from the Nineties, and I was seeing how much of their style was just like, head to toe Tommy. It was that mixed with the fact that I’m learning about the way that fast fashion works, and learning about how Tommy was committed to pushing more sustainable clothing. I just thought, if I’m going to be able to make a difference in this world, if I’m going to collaborate with anyone, I want it to be with somebody who’s valuing the future.
Tommy, what is it about Shawn that has impressed you the most during your time working together?
Tommy Hilfiger: Well he’s incredibly talented and his music speaks for itself obviously, but I love that he’s not full of himself. I also love that he likes sustainability, which is something we’re really pushing at Tommy Hilfiger. I also asked my three children who are in their 20s and 30s what they thought about Shawn Mendes, and each of them said, “Amazing, he’s on fire.” So I got the sign off.
Mendes: I got the children’s sign-off (laughs).
Speaking of family, what was it like to have your sister be a part of the photoshoot, Shawn?
Mendes: It was just so cool for me, and she’s just she’s over the moon about it. It’s going to change her life, because she’s probably coming into herself in a lot of ways, too, and when you do a campaign like that and you see yourself in photos, it’s beautiful. It’s also an amazing thing for my family as a whole, to see us both in a campaign together. It’s just a really remarkable thing.
You’re best-known as a musician, Shawn, so I wonder how you feel about the increasing attention you’re getting for your looks and your clothing choices.
Mendes: I’ve noticed as I’ve started getting older and caring more about my appearance and my fashion, that there’s a pressure and an anxiety of having to uphold this kind of image. And it sometimes feels really fun. Sometimes it can also feel hard.
(Turns to Hilfiger) I’m actually curious about how you feel about that, even as a fashion designer.
Hilfiger: Well I look at it in a very interesting way, because I think that every major music star from Michael Jackson to Elton John, to Madonna, Lady Gaga, Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger… they all have been fashion people, as well as incredible musicians. And the ones who have had great fashion sense along with their talent are the ones who always went to the top and remained at the top.
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Tommy, who do you bounce ideas off of when you’re designing a new collection?
Hilfiger: I have a great team. So it depends on what part we’re talking about — if it’s about the fashion itself, there are certain people I ask, and then other people when it comes to the business [side of things]. But as I said before, my children are who I bounce ideas off of, along with my wife and my family. I’m in a weird place though, because nobody will tell me what they really don’t like.
Mendes: I get that too actually. I think it sometimes comes with success where it can be very hard to create a safe environment for people to feel like they can tell you [no]. Even if you create all the safety in the world, it’s like a funny pressure to be like, “Love it, love it, love it.”
Hilfiger: Exactly, but there must be something you don’t love.
Would you want someone to tell you if they didn’t like something you had worked on?
Mendes: I know I really like something when I don’t want to send it to anybody, that’s for sure. Because I’m afraid of what people might say. But my sister actually is a great sounding board. She’ll also be like, “Hey, it’s not my cup of tea, but I think it’s amazing and I think it represents you,” which is like, incredible that she can do that for me. But my best friends and people who really know me, know that I need honesty; I need an intake meter.
Do either of you ever feel tapped out creatively, especially having to constantly churn out new projects and releases?
Mendes: I think I have felt that way for a long time; especially over the last two years was when I really stopped that train that I was on. I was like, “Listen, this is not the road to creativity. For me, this is not the best choice for art.” I think you can create art, always. But I don’t want to dilute my art.
What’s this “train” that you were on?
What wasn’t working for me was the constant pressure to have to create something and put it out in a few months. Or like, it was a sense of competition. I think there’s definitely a healthy competition that is very clearly there in all industries, but for me, it was like when the competition was making me rush art… that’s when it wasn’t healthy anymore.
Tommy, as someone who’s about to celebrate his 40th year in business, do you have any advice for Shawn?
Hilfiger: Keep holding on to who you are. Sometimes it’s tempting to wander off. And I have a lot of young designers who are chomping at the bit to do something very different. But I have to stay true to the brand. That’s when my work is most important — when I stay true to the brand and to myself.
Where do both of you draw inspiration from these days?
Hilfiger: I’m very curious. I want to see what’s going on in pop culture and in fashion, in music, and film. I love traveling to different places to see what people are doing, where they’re eating, what they’re wearing. I’m just obsessed with with that curiosity.
Mendes: I’ve been a bit of a workaholic in the past and noticing that when I’m constantly working, I can stop myself from receiving inspiration of life. So I’m pretty strict with myself in terms of allowing myself to live some life, because I really pull inspiration from memories.
I need to have something to pull from; I need to have memories and experiences and life to pull from because otherwise, there’s no depth to it. So nowadays, I really try to trust this process of, it’s going to come, it’s going to come, and when it does, it’s going to be correct. I’ll let you know how that goes.
The Tommy x Shawn Classics Reborn collection is available now online at Tommy.com.