exclusive: how christopher shannon is moving beyond the catwalk
Proving there’s more to fashion week than sending thirty boys out to walk the line, Christopher Shannon invites us to dive deep into his imagination for autumn/winter 16.
Inspired by the creative freedom of his recent collaboration with Linder Sterling, Shannon was keen to look past the tired show format and instead curate his own creative world. Whether its clubbing memories, Thatcher's Britain, teenage bedroom walls or Nigel Shafran's precinct shoppers, Shannon wears his inspirations on his tracktop sleeves, but is now allowing us to linger over the scrapbook of his mind. From the Maxwell Sterling produced score to found VHS footage and the promise of a zine, the multi-sensory experience will be consumed long after the two-hour Alison Jacques Gallery presentation. Here, the designer offers an exclusive first look at autumn/winter 16, exclusive polaroids, and tells us why it was important to break the show cycle.
From Menswear Day to LC:M, your show has been a firm fixture of every schedule. Could you talk us through your decision to switch to the presentation format?
I went away to France on holiday after the last show and realised I'd not really enjoyed the catwalk experience that season. I was feeling very trapped by the cycle and the format, the catwalk makes you design in a certain way somehow, and fashion week can feel quite grabby and tedious. Once I decided I didn't want to do it for a season I couldn't really turn back, it felt wrong. Fashion is a really hard industry and if you're not enjoying it, you have to change it. Then I came back and starting working on The Children Of The Mantic Stain with Linder for the British Art Show, I think I got quite jealous of the freedom she has as an artist and I became really intrigued by the idea of showing in a gallery. Also at the beginning of the season, I had this feeling that I wanted to go back to basics a bit, I wanted to design product for my stores and my own e-commerce without thinking about the catwalk experience.
Is it a coincidence that it comes at a time when the industry is in a state of flux and so many are questioning its processes?
It's useful for me that the industry is in flux as it seemed a time of change and within that I made a decision to do exactly what I wanted to to. One of the main things I can do with a presentation is curate a space, not everything is about throwing 30 boys down the runway for 9 minutes. I wanted to see what I would create within a gallery, that's been a really interesting process for me and it develops the shape of my brand in a different direction.
Could you introduce us to the The Comfort and the Horror - what sparked it, how did the collection evolve?
It was something I said when I was trying to describe the mood of the set and the projected footage to someone, it just sums up how I feel when I'm in suburbia. In times of stress and change I kind of crave that normality but then when I'm in it I'm totally freaked out by it.
What's your biggest comfort? And what horrifies you?
I don't have much comfort at the minute, time with my friends away from the studio, sleep. I'm horrified constantly, who isn't?
Soundtrack by Maxwell Sterling
The presentation itself is only one part of the multi-sensory exhibition of this season. From the video to the upcoming zine, could you talk us through the various elements and the team involved?
I'm interested in making a body of work more than a momentary catwalk experience, I want to develop my skills outside of that format. I worked with Max Clark on the styling and casting, I think that is also part of refreshing myself and getting a bit of distance, I've cast and styled the shows myself for so long I wanted a new feeling to that, so I can see it from a different perspective rather than being so in the centre of it. It's about linking together all the elements of from the last six years and moving forward, I feel really glad that I can do my mainline and the upcoming commercial line we are launching then also work on something like a ballet, it's an interesting mix. I also really enjoy the e-commerce side of the business and I want some more time to dedicate to that. I worked with Maxwell Sterling on the score for the presentation too, that's refreshing, making a two hour soundtrack rather than a ten minute one. Also the found footage, an old VHS recording that I'd been watching for years.
What are the lasting impressions you want to leave with the viewer?
I wanted to show that, it's a chance to bring your research out to frame the collection and not rely on a catwalk narrative so much.
What's next? What excites you most about tomorrow?
I'm in a hotel tonight so breakfast in bed, waking up in central London and seeing friends, no fashion allowed.
Polaroid photography David McKelvey
Lookbook photography Amy Gwatkin
Styling Max Clark