It’s official: the -cores are dead, and with their timely demise comes a resurgence of preppy, minimalist dressing that focuses on well-made pieces meant to stand the test of time (and trends). And Tommy Hilfiger, the American designer famous for pioneering the ’80s and ’90s prep aesthetic, knows a thing or two about timeless, perpetually classic pieces—and remaking them for today. Case in point: This month, he teamed up with none other than Grammy nominee Shawn Mendes to launch Tommy X Shawn Classics Reborn, a capsule collection featuring 28 looks. Each piece is meant to evoke a classic Tommy item (think: polo shirts, oxfords, letter jackets), but reimagined with a new twist. Everything is made with sustainable and innovative materials, a nod to the fact that even if the way we dress hasn’t changed much since Hilfiger’s eponymous brand launched in 1985, the world certainly has.
Last night, Hilfiger, Mendes, and a host of other VIPs, including Pamela Anderson, Jourdan Dunn, and Emily in Paris star Lucien Laviscount, gathered to celebrate the collection’s launch with an 80-person dinner at The House of KOKO in London. (No worries for Anderson: the menu was vegan-friendly). Ahead of the party, ELLE.com sat down with Hilfiger and Mendes to discuss the new collection, sustainability, and why prep is in (again). Read the interview below.
On the importance of sustainability:
Shawn Mendes: I think it’s actually getting to that point where [sustainability] is the only option. That’s why it is such an honor to be a part of this campaign and work with Tommy and his team. I was speaking about this the other day, how climate change can often feel like this looming, ominous source that can make you just want to get under your covers and surrender and be like, “That’s it; I’m out.” To be able to work with a brand that has so much impact and influence to me was like, okay, I can can really try to help and do something here. I also think it actually puts a lot of good pressure on other fashion brands and other industries to be like, “It’s time to start aiming towards shifting a paradigm.” And working with Tommy as such an iconic giant is the most incredible way I could ever do that. I’m having a moment right now where I’m having a lot of coincidences, and serendipity starts arriving. I’m having them arrive at the same time in my life, which is very cool.
Their favorite piece from the collection:
Tommy Hilfiger: I love this shirt [gestures to Mendes’ Flag Rugby Polo]. It’s inspired by a shirt I did in the ’90s that will go down in history as—
SM: One of the best ever.
TH: Yeah. I would say [it was] a bold move at the time, because a lot of people say that it is a defamation of the American flag. So it was sort of rebellious to do that at that point. And then Snoop Dogg wore it or wore [something] similar, and a lot of other young people started wearing it. But in the ’70s, if you were wearing a flag, a real American flag, you drape yourself in a real American flag, you could get arrested and put in jail. And when the shirt came out in 1992, we got letters from people who were veterans saying that’s a defamation of the flag. And we said, “No, we’re honoring the flag. Because we think it looks so great.”
SM: That shirt is also my favorite piece. I mean, being born in ’98, I often sometimes forget how much happened from between the ’50s to 2000 in terms of just rebellion and government and wars and everything. And I never even thought about how ballsy and bold a shirt like this is; I took it for granted. So this is the first time I’m really feeling that. And that’s a really amazing thing.
Why prep is due for a comeback:
TH: I think [fashion] is cyclical. If you look at what has been happening on the runways in Europe for the past three or four years…think of Gucci: everything was way over the top. What happens is the pendulum swings this way and that way where it goes way over the top. People want to come back here and even out. Preppy comes back every certain amount of time, but it comes back in a different way. And our shapes are different, so we’re making everything relevant for today. Whereas the ’90s made everything relevant for the ’90s, now the relevancy has changed.
Whether or not Mendes would ever start his own clothing line:
SM: It’s funny. I think actually just sitting here next to Tommy, hearing him speak about fashion, is so inspiring to me right now. It just feels like, I guess I haven’t asked the right questions, and I’m just feeling very lit up by it. And I’m just also just sensing so deeply how intertwined music and fashion actually are. And so, yes, the last couple times I’ve been asked that, I’ve said I’m not sure. But I really am feeling a high, resonant “yes” in my body, just because I’m so sure that there needs to be allies in the fight for impact and evolving. So, yes, for sure.
Shop more of the Tommy x Shawn collection, below:
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.