Fashion / Partnership

A partnership with purpose: Shawn Mendes and Tommy Hilfiger on uniting music, style and sustainability

By Martina Bonnier

Shawn Mendes and Tommy Hilfiger make a store appearance to unveil the collaboration in London. Photo: Dave Bennett

Vogue Scandinavia meets with the iconic duo in London for an intimate presentation of the new '90s-inspired Classics Reborn collection designed with sustainability at heart

“A lot of people talk about it but they don’t walk the walk,” says the eminent designer Tommy Hilfiger of Shawn Mendes, the (very chiselled) face of the brand’s latest collaboration. “We’ve been working on sustainability for over a decade and it’s been a long haul. To find a 24-year-old that really embraces it and believes in it is very meaningful to me. Mendes has wanted to learn about it and wanted to make sure this collection was as sustainable as we could get it,” he goes on.

We’re sitting in one of Tommy Hilfiger’s 5 London store locations, with the iconic American designer and Canadian singer-songwriter who are busy launching the new 28-piece Classics Reborn range. Following in the footsteps of recent A-list collaborations – think Gigi Hadid and Lewis Hamilton – the range takes its cues from classic preppy hero pieces, in particular, drawing on the early '90s with a focus on retro silhouettes and fits, brought into the modern day with the introduction of sustainable fabrics and innovations.

Tommy Hilfiger at the Classics Reborn celebratory dinner. Photo: Dave Bennett

Shawn Mendes with Pamela Anderson. Photo: Jason Lloyd-Evans

If you track back to the '90s, Hilfiger has consistently had a knack for tapping into the buzziest personas of the musical zeitgeist, teaming up with Aaliyah and Britney Spears at the time. “I haven’t done this with a current music icon in many years,” Hilfiger comments. “It’s like coming home to me, but it’s on a whole new level now. We’re mixing fashion and music, but there’s much more depth to it than just that,” says the designer. “[Hilfiger] has really shown me how linked fashion and music are. There’s confidence and energy that connects the two,” Mendes adds.

I really think that each dial turn of pushing things to be more sustainable is what’s going to change the world

Shawn Mendes

The collection celebrates '90s style, which Mendes cites as his favourite current era, despite the fact he didn't personally experience any of it himself. “I was born in '98, so my parents lived in Tommy Hilfiger,” he says. “It’s like, I’m pretty sure for the first three years of my life, I thought it was the only clothing that existed on the planet,” he laughs. “It’s pretty woven into my understanding of fashion and clothing.”

Earlier in the day, Hilfiger and Mendes were met with hoards of crowds of adoring fans when making a public appearance outside a store in the capital. When asked about this high-octane level of stardom, Mendes says his feelings about it are constantly changing. “Sometimes it feels like pressure, sometimes it feels like an honour. Sometimes it is effortless, sometimes it feels very hard. There’s a responsibility to be authentic. Ultimately the greatest thing I can do is show up as myself,” the musician says.

Shawn Mendes recruited family and friends to star alongside him in the Classics Reborn campaign.

But back to the collection. Tommy Hilfiger has found ways to be more circular and to create new fibres out of recycled textiles, instead of relying on virgin resources. The collection uses Circulose, a fibre that is made from recycled textile waste. Stand-out items include a stars and stripes rugby shirt which is made from a recycled and organic cotton blend, along with a varsity jacket which has sleeves made from Econyl, regenerated nylon that is made from plastic waste including fishing nets.

Hilfiger speaks with genuine earnest about leading the charge for the industry. “Our company has to be sustainable. And we can be leaders because of the large distribution we have and hopefully others will follow,” he says. “We’re investing a lot of money in it and we’re taking it very seriously.”

Beyond Classics Reborn, the brand has implemented other pioneering techniques and practices other pioneering techniques and practices. "We are expanding the share of responsibly washed and finished denim, using less water, energy and chemicals.” Hilfiger says. "We're also in renting and resale now, so all of those aspects add up to bringing us to a better place."

Mendes is a true advocate of sustainable fashion as well. "We started learning about climate change when I was about eight years old," Mendes recalls. "And two to three years ago, I learned how fast fashion is really affecting the environment. It started with my merchandise line. I was like, 'We can't sell merchandise unless we find a way to make it sustainable.' I felt like cloud of impending doom coming," he says. "I'm so honoured to be part of this campaign and have so much influence to impact the world. And to choose to push a more sustainable way of making clothing is my dream. I really think that each dial turn of pushing things to be more sustainable is what's going to change the world."

For Hilfiger, the sky is the limit when it comes to his namesake brand's circular ambitions. "I would like to own and resell all of the vintage Tommy Hilfiger in the world," he states. "I buy it continually and we repair and sell a lot of it. But I think everything should come back to us, and then we can recycle it. I don't know if that will be possible in my lifetime but that is a dream of mine. And dreams can come true."