Words by Jamie Moses
Ahead of his latest Saints & Sinners collection we sat down with brand founder and Palace skater, Shawn Powers to catch up on where he’s at.
As his brand’s name suggests, Shawn’s publicity over the years has been turbulent and his character equally as polarising at times. However, It’s pretty obvious from the contact we had, that Shawn has undoubtedly turned a new leaf since his earlier years in New York’s skate scene and his new energy is as energetic as it is captivating.
Former substance abuse issue have subsided with the help of tight family connection and support from core friends leaving Shawn in what we can only see as a comfortable yet wilfully determined mind frame.
Read on to find out what makes Shawn tick and more on his background and creative process.
Do you still live in Queens?
Naaa, I haven’t lived in queens for like 10 years now. My mom and brother still do, I visit often to hang out with them and pick up my mail. It’s nice and quiet out there, lots of trees and parks but it’s still got inner city old school New York vibes. If you fly into New York and land at John F Kennedy airport that’s pretty much the area I’m from, it’s called South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill.
Photo by Ryuta Hironaga
What’s your current housing set up like? How has working there influenced your work?
Right now I’m living in the belly of the beast in downtown New York City, the Lower East side. I’ve got a spacious apartment with my girl which is rare in this area, we got three bedrooms, one room is converted into our closet and the other room is my studio/skate cave. We got a big living room and kitchen to.
This is the best situation I ever been in. Before this I was renting small rooms by myself living with random people. My girl works in banking she’s the bread winner but I’m able to sustain our lifestyle here too because of Palace and Saints and Sinners, life is expensive but that should be enough to motivate anyone to hustle and work hard really.
I remember reading a while back that you were only awake at night, do you still do this? Why did it begin to happen?
Hmmm, you might be talking about when I used to skate late at night to film with Joe Bressler. He used to film Bobby Puleo and go on solo missions at night and would tell me about it and I was like, ‘that sounds G! let’s do the same shit.’
“Now sometimes I can’t sleep because I’m so excited about life and skating the next day”
Never got to skate with Bobby but knowing he was on that type of time made me get on the train sometimes for an hour and half all the way from Queens to meet up with Joe and stack footage at 12am. We got a lot done, skating at night is different, moon physics Yo lol. Now sometimes I can’t sleep because I’m so excited about life and skating the next day, I’ll just wanna listen to music and watch skate videos and draw and shit coz I’m hyped. I’ve really fell back into the groove of loving and feeling good about skating. I bought a VCR TV and have been spending all my money on old VHS skate videos. Sleep is safe though! Getting up early is the one for sure.
Photo by Brian Kelly
It seems you’ve worked hard on personal issues, do you owe this to anything in particular?
I owe it to God and the Lord Saviour, Jesus Christ... Lol Na I’m Just playin!
I owe it to skating, my family and everyone who had my back when I was at my worst. Y’all know who you are and thanks for never giving up on me. I’m not perfect now but I’ve definitely chilled out.
Shawn Pictured with Mother
“Back then to me life was a circus and I was a clown, everything was a joke”
I’ve done a lot of stupid shit you already know. Back then to me life was a circus and I was a clown, everything was a joke to me so why give a fuck? But that’s childish, you gotta grow up at some point. Sometimes I slip back into the mentality that life’s a joke for a second, but I’m like, ‘Na, it’s too dangerous.’
You gotta keep it together, life is a real serious thing so you can’t joke around too much or the consequences can be harsh. I was also in a toxic relationship for a long time so when I got outta that I really found myself again.
Photo by Ryuta Hironaga
What caused you to begin a clothing label in the first place? Is there any specific meaning in the name?
Saints & Sinners originally stands for an ex-girlfriend’s and my name together. After that relationship ended I was stuck with the tattoo so I had to give it a different meaning. Everyone thought it was a gang tattoo or something anyway and would always ask what it stands for so I’d be like it stands for Saints and Sinners. It worked out coz my art already involved a lot of religious or satanic shit. The name gives me a wide range to work on both the darker side and lighter side of things. Heaven and Hell , Good and Evil.
Photo by Ryan Razon
“Everyone thought it was a gang tattoo or something anyway and would always ask what it stands for so I’d be like it stands for Saints and Sinners”
It’s easy for me to come up with concepts for graphics coz that’s my favourite shit to play around with anyway, it all worked out perfect.
Do you have a favourite brand or designer at the moment? And why?
I love polo sport, I actually love palace shit so much as well. I’ll even look at Grailed or Depop and eBay just to buy really old palace shit coz it brings back memories from the early days.
Photos by @rollzwyze
Lately I’ve Been looking at some vintage BOSS stuff I might cop. I got like two or three pieces of Tommy Hill but they don’t sit with the Polo and Palace collection. Then I archive all my favourite Saints and Sinners shit on the side. I got a couple of Hardbody logo tees, they harder than any box logo Tee any day.
Any other big influences/inspirations?
Nothing about any brands specifically, but the people behind them inspire me. I think Lev from Palace and James from Supreme are the top dogs in the game. I wanna be on their level. Maybe it’s unlikely coz I’m never gonna make boards or have a skate team or anything but I just want people to think my graphics and designs are so cool that they absolutely need to have them in their collection. I’m still learning, I’ve only been doing this for like 3 years. Sometimes I make a shirt and I’m like, ‘that was wack, why did I do that?’
‘I’m still learning, I’ve only been doing this for like 3 years. Sometimes I make a shirt and I’m like, ‘that was wack, why did I do that?’
I have to make sure I never make a stinking graphic again, I think this drop is almost it. I’m not really educated on fashion and many brands and designers but I’m sure if I dove into that world I’d learn a thing or two. For now, ignorance is bliss and it’s better to just do your own thing without feeling like your copying someone else. Everything’s been done but if you don’t know what’s been done it’s most likely you won’t hold back and you’ll end up doing it in your own way anways, but there’s also nothing wrong with using other sources and things done in the past for inspiration either.
What are you up to this week?
Me and my girl are gonna baby sit our friends dog this weekend so I’m hyped on that. It’s supposed to rain for a couple days so I’ll start working on a painting.
It’s summer so any chance I get, I’m out the door tryna skate and film so hopefully I’ll catch some footage this week. I Should be visiting my mom’s and my brother too and hitting the museum.
Photo by John Shanahan
Do you have any other projects on the go currently?
I’m always working on graphics, tryna get everything final and perfect for production. It’s fun for me, I wanna get a bunch of big paintings together and have a show as it’s been a while, but now I have the space to make art and of course I’m trying to stack footage for the next skate part. I wanna do some writing too and make book of random thoughts and ideas.
Photo by Sloan Laurits
5 tracks you’ve had on rotation this week?
I also really dig Islamic prayer music lately, it’s really relaxing for me to listen to. I don’t understand the language but it’s powerful.