Home // Fashion // Designer profile // Christopher Shannon (Classic Dialogues)
LauraLewis-12

Christopher Shannon (Classic Dialogues)

Rebellious, resourceful and restless: SEB LAW talks to CHRISTOPHER SHANNON, the menswear designer who’s made a career out of doing things differently.

LauraLewis-4

Words: Seb Law
Photography: Laura Lewis

It’s always been hard to quantify Christopher Shannon’s collections. A contemporary of the new wave of London designers (James Long, Martine Rose, Lou Dalton) who have surfed an ascendant wave of menswear the last few years, Shannon’s point of difference is always attributed to his Liverpool roots, and the way he embeds sportswear motifs into his collections, eschewing tailoring for a casual look. It’s tripped many writers into cliché-holes about Scouse terrace wear and ‘the new sports-luxe’, and showed up fashion for the London-centric beast that it really is.

In reality, Shannon has pushed against clichés his whole life; from his nascent stages of breaking into Liverpool’s creative community all the way up to his SS13 collection catwalk show at London Collections: Men over the summer. The show was a return to the bright colours that proved so popular a few season ago. “I just felt really in the mood,” Chris says, “it’s the first time we’ve shown SS in the summer, and I had fallen into a navy grey abyss; it’s my favourite colour and I find it really hard not to use it all the time.”

He comes across as restless, in a positive, constructive way. Reading between the lines of the interview, it seems like there’s so much about the fashion industry the Shannon wants to change that it’s difficult for him to know where to start. In the same way the Kim Jones (a sort of mentor and longtime friend) approached fashion; so Shannon is re-interpreting that approach for the late noughties. Like Jones, Shannon was seriously reluctant to start an own-brand label straight after college.

He’s all about embracing the future. “How are designers supposed to move forward if all people talk about is Burberry and Savile Row? I loathe ‘aspirational’, ‘lifestyle’ fashion,” he explains. The same goes for his collaborations. After years of working with Eastpak, Shannon has just switched to the Cambridge Satchel Company, shifting his allegiance from a massive brand to something altogether more British cottage industry; ditto his collab with Kickers. Shannon’s take on the footwear is an unashamedly modern look at the classic Kickers boot; it wasn’t the easiest route for his second season with the brand “for SS13 we went for it a bit more”, he says, adding: “I had to get the Kickers team to trust me; I think they freaked out when they saw my initial designs!”

The thing about Shannon is that he’s always had something of the outsider to him; perhaps it IS those Northern roots (it’s not even as though he wears them on his sleeve; but in such an inward-focused industry as fashion, the idea that a working-class Scouser could be showing clothes on-schedule is difficult for some to digest). More likely though, it’s his nonconformist spirit and a deliberate avoidance of cliché that makes his work interesting and provocative.

Coming up through CSM, Shannon has always been outspoken about the industry and is a dyed-in-the-wool advocate to changing the perceptions and realities of fashion: “I think more grants for art colleges would be a good idea; St Martin’s can be so rah and dry these days; there’s a roughness missing that I really liked about the college.” Commerciality is obviously a factor in what he does, but more important is the idea of stripping fashion of its unnecessary affectations and taking it back to the clothes and their functionality.

Regardless of his upbringing, Shannon has worked against the same issues and complexities and rapidly-changing industry as other designers, and what makes London menswear a scene, rather than a unified school, is the differing ways in which designers have interpreted the city, its culture and its men to create a wide spectrum of menswear which reflects the way men actually dress, and crucially actually want to dress, in the 21st Century.

Read the full interview with Christopher Shannon on www.planetnotion.com

FIELD NOTES:

  1. Christopher Shannon’s AW12 Kickers are available now on Oki-Ni and Kickers.co.uk for £110. The SS13 range drops in January at the same places
  2. He’s been talking about starting a womenswear line: “I think it will happen next year”
  3. Before setting up his own label, Christopher worked closely with Kim Jones, Judy Blame and William Baker, and presented a Sunday evening show on BBC Radio Merseyside
  4. Charlie Porter’s excellent interview with Chris is a must-read at www.charlieporter.net


Leave a Reply