christopher shannon spring/summer 14 menswear
Christopher Shannon spring/summer 2014
Season after season, the eye catching flag of London menswear is being hoisted ever higher. What began as an added decoration on the sweet icing of the appetite whetting week of womenswear, a performance of frivolity, has sartorially shifted to launch each season with its own dedicated three day platform. Few designers have played their part like Christopher Shannon. The Liverpool-born and Central Saint Martins trained dreamer has seen it all and shone under the spotlights of London Fashion Week and London Collections: Men. He has helped pushed the capital's menswear forward by turning early promise into a diverse label that blossoms with critical and commercial success. Continually honing his signature fusion of performance fabrics, clean silhouettes and unexpected drama. His experimental sportswear has dazzled editors and buyers alike, not least his spring/summer 14 collection that was a euphoric mix of legal highs drenched in a rainbow of florals, glitter and clubbing memories. It provided the highest of highs and left the audience with a huge grin. Longing to be swept away by his spectrum of sportswear, i-D sits downs with the designer to talk memories, menswear and being his own master.
Aside from sitting down at your laptop to answer these questions, what are you upto?
We are working on autumn/winter 14 prints and outerwear.
What can you see?
I can see my design assistant Caitlin sat opposite me as I rush her to bang out more colour options and harass the fabric suppliers.
What's playing from your speakers?
I'm listening to Adrian Sherwood whose back catalogue I'm currently devouring.
Intense. Stepping away from new prints and outerwear, lets return to spring/summer 14. I read that it initially began with an imagined exploration of Mexico before being scrapped for something much more personal and close to the beating heart of to yourself and the brand.
It wasn't so much about Mexico, more about one photographer's interpretation of it, and how similar that was to silhouettes we work with and develop.
When did you change direction and what was the catalyst for looking at 90s club culture?
There wasn't enough there. I buy books compulsively, so when I have a block I route through it and try and find a link in-between the images I've been drawn to. A friend had sent me a picture of myself at 16, I left school for college at 16 and spent most of my time in the clubs of Liverpool and Manchester. It was all I wanted to do for about 18 months and it was a period of my growing up that I was a bit embarrassed about and had sort of forgotten about. Seeing a picture of myself dressed up in ridiculous clothes that could have only been from the late 90s was the catalyst, it was a cathartic collection, there was no going back we had to really go for it and that was really liberating.
Was it a case of a mood board pinned with memories?
Yes, all of them, as many as I could find. It was then a process of going for the most hideous ones more than the ones that had dated well. I like it when fashion dates but keeps its appeal. I didn't really want my team seeing pictures of me at 15 in all my club wear glory, so a lot of the mood was from memory, the people I knew who were mostly older than me and whose clothes I coveted.
What were the club nights, songs and experiences that left the greatest impression on you?
I only really caught the end of it all, I was 15 when I went to the last FLESH at the Hacienda, there wasn't a great mood to be honest, maybe I was too young. I think by then people had really moved on. Liverpool had its own mood that was a bit rougher and fun, Manchester took itself a bit more seriously and was a bit more posey and grown up. I mostly remember getting the coach back and forth, the station in Manchester was right next to the Paradise Factory which I always found a bit poncey. My favourite was a club called Danceteria, which was open from midnight on Saturday night until about 11pm Sunday night, it was a converted pub and had the best music. I loved it in there and would be gutted if we couldn't get in, all the drama of fake IDs, begging and favours. It was so sweaty you would take a few changes of clothes and every few hours go out to the car park and change, the steam billowing off you in the cold Manc air. Then go back in and reveal a new look, ridiculous!
As it was stitched with memories, how did the spring/summer 14 collection make you feel when designing it?
When you know and understand your research it's quite easy to move forward, also the fabrics really fell into place so we kept fitting and tweaking and finding out what worked in the different weights. We had been working on our own floral and it all looked a bit forced, then I thought of Liberty, who have a huge archive, and they where able to do a special nylon weight for us. Also when I decided on the music that is a good moment, we do fittings with the show music on and see what feels right and if the mood is there.
How does the collection make you feel looking at it now?
I haven't really looked at it. We have to move on so fast now that my head is already full of new imagery the week before the show, I'll already be working out my mood for autumn/winter 14.
Has this return to your clubbing days sparked an interest to go out once more?
I had a very sociable summer, so I'm definitely in a staying in mode.
Tell us about your ideal night now.
In bed by ten most nights.
Over the last few seasons, you've turned early promise into a diverse label that enjoys both critical and commercial success for the eponymous line, Kidda and the complimentary collaborations. What's the secret?
I don't think there's any secrets, it's mostly hard work. I think I'm pulled between a few things, I like ideasy menswear but I really like the commercial aspect, also I like quite ladsy casual sportswear but I am drawn to a bit of drama, so for me it's balancing all those things.
How would you say you've grown most as a designer?
I think I'm braver than I used to be and I try to trust my instinct more and more and not go down a dry path. We always aim to better what we've done before, it's all you can do really.
Your considered rise has coincided with the wave of Menswear Day and introduction of LC:M. From your perspective, how has London menswear evolved?
I'd like to think my label was instrumental in that, we got stuck in and did orders and didn't want to be just a London hype brand, I think its that difference which has helped things move forward. I think I was one of the first designers from the MAN day to start selling internationally. It's evolving all the time. I think sometimes a bit of an edit is needed or it becomes a band wagon and too much hype.
LC:M spring/summer 14 was one of the real highlights of the season. It had so much talent, energy and work to enthuse over. Could you feel that too from your side?
The feeling is so much bigger than the MAN day, I don't really feel it until I get to the venue though, we are so holed up in the studio working till the last minute and trying to get a good nights sleep that we don't really notice what's going on outside. Then you are backstage so never really see the mania, last year I saw the queues outside and they were round the block. That was a gulp moment.
What were your highlights?
There are loads of designers I love. I like the genuine work that is interesting and has a point of view, people like Martine Rose, Craig Green and Shaun Samson. I can't stand all the Prada-wannabes and the copycat 'British' brands.
What's next? Can you tell us about any upcoming collaborations or hint at autumn/winter 14 as it stands?
Ooof, there's a few things in pipeline. We have a new footwear project which will be launched later this month, that's looking nice. We've started work on the online shop and also a publishing project. There's a nice mix of things going on. There's a few sportswear consultancies I'm keen to do which seem to take forever to work out but I think the time is right now.
Text Steve Salter