how do you find the perfect mix of creativity and commerce?
Leaving the traditional LFW format, designer Christopher Shannon found a new found freedom in doing exactly what he wanted.
Photography Elliot Kennedy
Christopher Shannon’s decision to not show during London Fashion Week Men's autumn/winter 18 was a big one. This move didn’t go unnoticed within the industry or his fans. The contemporary menswear language Shannon spoke had bolstered London menswear for seasons. Shannon, alongside contemporaries Craig Green, Nasir Mazhar and the current Fashion East gang, has come to represent the very heart of London’s youth and vision. So why take himself off schedule? Chris invited i-D down to preview his autumn/winter 18 lookbook that he released in his own time and on his own terms.
“I definitely feel better than I did last year, but now I know I have to do everything on my own terms”, explains Chris over a tea (we’re all drinking tea before the beers eventually come out). Christopher Shannon is funny, incredibly honest and simply put just really fucking good at designing clothes. He is the designer that brought back buffness, double denim, fun and a tenderness we hadn’t seen before.
“I hated that back-to-school sensation and that's how I actually felt about the shows. Everyone else has a nice time but the designers don't! Fashion weeks are so structured -- but the very basis of creativity is that not everyone fits into the same regime. And fashion is the only industry that goes like clockwork,” says Chris. “The reason designers use the same reference points so heavily is that they are up against time, they don't have time to think of anything new -- so they are stealing and over referencing and it's so ruthless.”
Shannon isn’t the first designer to talk about the stresses of the fashion system, nor its demands -- we only need to look around to see the pressures on both young and established brands to see that the system is proving to be of greater and greater pressure. It’s both the show schedule and the buying system that has proved to be stifling for Chris. “The idea of chasing money (from certain stores) stressed me. I have some really loyal stores, but other projects weren’t always great. It was a case of do you wanna build and create a brand and sell more clothes, or do you want to have the freedom to do something that fulfils you? And I hadn't thought of it like that”.
So how do you regain the freedom, but also keep afloat financially? “The idea of doing 'drops' is much more freeing. I don't have to think in contexts for stores or anybody else”, says Chris. “It also feels contemporary. I have the freedom to concentrate on my e-commerce, I don’t have to answer to anyone. Now I know I can retain my own business on my own model rather than being in someone else's pocket. I'm only answerable to myself. I didn't know what that was last summer but this feels so better.”
The clothes are exactly those we know and love and yearn. Comprised of three categories, there is the main collection (inspired by photographer Peter Bialobrzeski); luxurious puffa jackets, embellished with silk floral draping, silk oversized shirts, sexy parkas with matching tracksuit bottoms. Secondly, the collab with HI-TEC, which includes an amazing wool shearling logo-ed HI TEC tracksuit and brash and colourful trainers that only our Shannon can do. He dubs it as a mix of JD Sports and Lanvin, and I ask for press discount.
Thirdly there’s classic Shannon pieces: roll-necks and the jumpers that say ‘NO ONE CARES ANYWAY’, and extension of the ‘LOVERS DIRECT’ jumpers that will forever be iconic. And nobody does care, doll”, laughs Chris. “Louise Wilson, god bless her, had the most incredible way of thinking. Working with her, she saw that my work was genuine and she said if you love this, refine these ideas and make those worlds possible. And now this rings true. It was so nice to not have to get this done for the first week of Jan, why am I racing? Who am I trying to please?”, says Chris. “I don't care what people think. I've got the space and I've created the space”. We’re jumping in that space right with ya, doll. Here’s to more drops of direct lovers caring.
Photography Elliot Kennedy