exclusive: christopher shannon on catwalks, creativity and collaboration
After creating and curating his own little world within a gallery presentation for autumn/winter 16, Christopher Shannon makes a welcome return to the catwalk for spring/summer 17.
From Menswear Day to London Collections: Men, Christopher has been a firm fixture of every show schedule of the last sixteen seasons and whilst the presentation format allowed the designer to create a multi-sensory immersive experience, the catwalk missed his manipulation on modern menswear. Ahead of his return, he talks us through his decision and shares a sneak preview of today's show.
Following your successful presentation last season, some might be surprised to see you return to the catwalk. What attracted you back to?
I loved working in the gallery environment and as a personal piece of work the process was really rewarding. I almost liked the space more with the set and the video, than I did with the clothes and the audience. And I relished having a break from the cycle of catwalk, it's not stimulating to never have a change and look at the work a different way. I didn't massively enjoy being front of house though, I hadn't really thought that bit through. I just decided the spring/summer 17 collection would have to walk, it's a progression of ideas and looks whereas autumn/winter 16 was more about outfits and the mood.
Last time we spoke you said, "not everything is about throwing 30 boys down the runway for 9 minutes." Of course, the show season has to have this element but how do you push the catwalk further, make it more your own?
Well I think catwalk can make up for a lot of bad ideas, and I like the ideas to be valid away from the catwalk. I think for me it's a focus on design this season, no drama and distraction, no sets. I really miss design at the minute, everything seems to be styling and fashion referencing fashion. I just wanted to get back to the way I worked on the MA with Louise, making an idea go further rather than just throwing ideas around. I've always worked on the casting and soundtrack of the show really closely, it's another way to reveal your point of view.
What can you tell us about spring/summer 17? What was creative catalyst and how did it evolve? What did your mood board look like? What were you listening to in the studio?
It started from a really practical point, we had had so many issues with technical fabrics in the past and it was making me hate going to work, just the constant problems with the factories to get everything perfect, that's only really possible when you have Nike esque facilities. I looked at the denim in my MA collection as we were moving the studio storage which led us to pulling all the denim we'd ever done and some of it seemed to be my favourite pieces, it feel new to focus on one fabrication and rework it in lots of ways. And denim has so many connotations, it's actually quite a kinky fabric to work with. There was also the emotion of break-up, a friend was seeing this lad who she dumped, he went from being such a toughie to a broken mess, I was really taken with that emotion, the mood was him back to work on Monday morning, hungover and heartbroken.
As ever, the invitation artwork is as intriguing as ever. Could you talk about the artwork used?
As I was looking at the denim ideas I saw Peter Mitchell's books Everything Means Something to Someone and the mood felt right, sort of practical art, and the disintegration of these scarecrow images I loved. I'd had some of his images for years from a book called No Such Thing As Society so I'm pleased he's finally publishing his own work on a bigger scale.
Now, as you're about to show the collection, how do you feel? What emotion are you left with?
I don't have emotions at the minute, there's too much to focus on to indulge in feelings, I mean I do indulge but then I have to snap myself out of it.
What excites you most about post-show tomorrow and beyond?
The perfume we are launching with Mark Buxton is ready, it has no name yet and I'm really struggling with that but I'm super happy with the scent. We are now working with Hi-TEC footwear which I'm super excited about and actually getting product to market. I'm curating the fashion for Linder's ART NIGHT at the ICA which is a buzz, I've brought in Louise Gray, Luke Brooks and James Buck to work with us on it, it's like all my favourite visionaries altogether.
Text Steve Salter
Photography David McKelvey