In an exclusive interview with GQ, the singer stresses the importance of staying true to oneself and self-acceptance in order to grow, talks about new music coming soon and the sustainable capsule collection he created in collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger.
Shawn Mendes has always liked to describe himself as a normal person who loves making music, in fact he has stated on more than one occasion that he did not know what he would do in life if he did not become a singer. His intention to take that path was so clear to him that he immediately shared his first flirtations with this genre of art with the public. He did so in 2013 through social media, specifically through the video app Vine. The Internet was the first stage available to what is now an international star, thus confirming the archetypal Generation Z "American Dream."
Next came four studio albums, international tours, accolades galore, and even a Netflix documentary examining the reasons for her success. Time, however, dictates the law, and almost a year ago he decided to take some time off in order to "put mental and physical well-being first," according to the statement he unsurprisingly shared on Instagram: "After talking with my team and working with an incredible group of health professionals, it was clear that I needed a break, which I have never taken until now, to get myself together and come back stronger," he explained in the post.
"This doesn't mean I won't be making new music […] I promise to be back very soon now that I've taken some time to heal."
In this simple and honest way, the performer, originally from Ontario in Canada, cancelled the tour in which he was engaged to return home, get back to his roots, and start anew after getting his priorities in order and regaining control of his existence.
After the message, nothing more was heard from Mendes. The only information that came about him took the form of fleeting photographs captured by paparazzi or content that he himself occasionally posted. The artist found refuge in the affection of his loved ones and took care of himself and his mental health to return, as promised, to full strength. Gradually, the There's Nothing Holding Me Back singer has been showing off the lyrics of the new song and, through his social media profiles, showing us how he has been harnessing his guitar again, chatting about the importance of love with collaborator Jay Shetty or showing off his recent haircut, a sign that for many is always a sign of positive change. "Our society has taught us not to ask for help, to be strong and to rise up on our own," he tells GQ exclusively, looking back on her experience this past year. "A lot has changed since then, but for me the most important moment was realizing that my truth is a vital element, whatever it is … because if I try to accomplish something or do a show without really being myself, I always end up suffering, paralyzing myself, and it's no use." He continues,
"I have found that I am a much better person and have a greater impact when I live my truth. I think this is the hardest thing I've ever faced in my life, although, ironically, it should also be the easiest…. So, without going into too much detail with respect to all the little daily events, I think this may be the summary of my change in perspective."
Before the conversation took another turn to dig deeper into Mendes' experience, the singer's sincerity about the inner journey he has faced in recent months also came out in these words, "Can I emphasize one last thing? It is important for anyone who is reading this article: being authentic does not mean just telling the truth, but knowing how to listen to your needs both to stop when you are tired and to find comfort in moments of loss. It does not mean to be always busy on every front, but to listen in every moment to oneself and to understand what we cannot do without. It is essential to understand this. As human beings, we experience life in all its complexity, so knowing how to accept ourselves and recognize what we need to grow is really essential." His sentences sound reflective yet emphatic, and he seems to be gathering his thoughts before he can verbalize them for the first time in a long time.
"In what ways can you accept yourself, Shawn?" I ask him. "For me it means starting with the little things, even in everyday life. It's about being spontaneous with loved ones, family, friends, and asking yourself, 'Can I be honest with them and, little by little, increase my self-confidence?' Every time you do that, you realize you are getting better," he says in words that resonate from deep within. "We usually feel the need to change the world, but I think it is essential to start with the basics, the smallest things, and grow over time. Does what I'm saying make sense?" he asks himself at the end of a series of very personal reflections. "I think as time goes on, more and more people realize at some point how vital it is to acknowledge our weaknesses, seek truth and be authentic. This doesn't make us weak; on the contrary, it makes us much stronger," the artist concludes, as if medicating for the last time a wound that is healing.
"WE WERE TAUGHT NOT TO ASK FOR HELP, TO BE STRONG AND TO CLIMB UP THE SLOPE ON OUR OWN."
"The absolute easiest advice to give someone is to have courage. It is one thing to understand it and another to feel it inside. It all starts with being honest and fearless enough to admit one's own fragility; when one person in a group shows vulnerability, they become leverage for others, creating a kind of ripple effect." Experience teaches, and after going through some of the darkest places, the artist is aware of the importance of lending a helping hand to the up-and-coming generation. The Shawn Mendes Foundation aims to support young people engaged in any kind of change who encounter difficulties along their way.
"Facing the big problems that stand in the way of realizing an idea is a shocking, frightening and worrying experience; so as soon as you find yourself in such a situation, you should not feel alone. You need all the support you can get, in any way. The foundation is very careful to provide all kinds of support, be it emotional, financial or conceptual to develop a project. In my opinion, this is the most important thing: helping each other, creating community, connecting young people and making people feel that they are not alone. This is the only way we can change."
The reality of his generation is, from his own experience and that of others, one of Shawn's great concerns, and on more than one occasion he pauses to analyze it:
"We have found ourselves living on a planet that desperately needs help and change. The concern about it is immense. It can even be overwhelming because there is too much pressure and fear, but working together making use of people like Tommy Hilfiger who have so much influence and impact on the world can make a difference."
The reason the singer mentions the well-known American brand is nothing more than the partnership, in the form of a capsule collection, launched together for spring/summer 2023: Tommy x Shawn Classics Reborn. A reimagining of the brand's American classics, re-edited from Mendes' perspective to seduce, in a romantic key, the generations of today and forever. "I like all the garments we've created, but the Varsity Jacket is the highlight for me. There's also a blue jacket that I love and haven't taken off in … I don't know, four days!" she confesses, marveling at her own words. "The whole collection is great because it fits very well, is extremely comfortable and easy to wear."
"I HAVE FOUND THAT I AM A MUCH BETTER PERSON AND HAVE A GREATER IMPACT WHEN I LIVE MY TRUTH."
"You know what? Maybe I'm going through my '90s phase. It's funny because my parents had me in '98, when they were in their 20s. Now that I'm that age and I look at their pictures, I realize I dress the same way!" she says laughing without losing her train of thought. "It's interesting how style and other art forms come back and are recycled…. So when I discovered the Tommy Hilfiger archive from the 1990s, it seemed like it was made just for me. I loved the cuts, the silhouettes, and the aesthetic of all those garments, some of which were also worn at the time by my parents, it's something that I totally relate to."
Collaboration is not just about fashion. The generational focus on social responsibility and respect for core values such as caring for the planet is reflected in this very capsule collection that features two innovative sustainable materials: Recycrom™️, a technique for obtaining powder dyes from fabric leftovers applied in garments such as Chinese pants; Circulose®, a fabric resulting from a blend of recycled textile waste and wood fiber, as well as old acquaintances such as ECONYL® recycled nylon featured in the Varsity jacket. "We are the generation of the protagonists and agents of change, I am very confident about that," says the Canadian. "The time has come when my generation said, 'It's time, let's do something.' Therefore, in a time of emergency, we are ready to do whatever it takes, either to help the planet or to change what is harming the culture, society or ourselves."
Mendes and Hilfiger's relationship is not new-their bond goes back many years and peaked at the last MET Gala, where together they came up with a sustainability-themed look reminiscent of the traditional dandy in a revamped version. "I've been wearing Tommy Hilfiger for as long as I can remember," says the actor, "in fact there are pictures of me as a child, at the age of six or seven, wearing a Tommy tracksuit that my mother always wore. So it's undoubtedly a brand that I've been connected to for a long time and it's very nice, don't you think?" Then he continues,
"I've always been connected to the creativity, essence and expression of the company and the brand; so, for me it's been a very organic, spontaneous and authentic relationship which is what I try to base my life on. The reason why we came together in such an enthusiastic and sincere way at this moment is the common desire to put caring for the planet at the center of our values. When I met Tommy and his team, they immediately grasped the urgency of my desire to change the fashion paradigm and create a more sustainable version. They also support the cause, and so the spark was immediately there."
From the photos accompanying our interview, it is certain that we could be looking at the latest images of the artist with the wavy hair envied by many throughout her years of career. "Ah, yes, maybe…," he says, bursting into laughter. "After shaving, though, my hair grew back, so don't worry!" A light-hearted reaction to be understood as a sign of what seems to be much-needed healing. He may still have a long way to go, but his new self is beginning to see the light.
"TO BE AUTHENTIC IS NOT ONLY TO TELL THE TRUTH, BUT TO KNOW HOW TO LISTEN TO ONE'S NEEDS BOTH TO STOP WHEN ONE IS TIRED AND TO ASK FOR COMFORT IN TIMES OF LOSS."
Change in our protagonist is already visible. This is what well-being is all about: knowing how to stop, analyze one's situation, come to terms with it, and move forward with the experience gained. The wheel does not stop for anyone, neither for ourselves nor for others. The only thing we can manage is the speed with which we want to deal with it. At this point the question is, what's in Shawn Mendes's future? "A lot of things!" he replies with satisfaction. "Obviously I'm really excited because of the campaign with Tommy Hilfiger and happy to travel a little bit, but I've also been in the studio to focus on music again. I want to continue to work serenely and focus on the moment. If in the present, as I said, I can be authentic and sincere, it is likely that I will be able to accomplish more projects in the future."