fashion insiders’ favorite music videos: christopher shannon
In an ongoing series of regular interviews, i-D invites our music-loving fashion friends to select and dissect their ultimate inspirational pop videos.
This article was originally published by i-D UK.
Almost ten years have passed since Christopher Shannon launched his menswear label, which goes from strength to strength and, in recent seasons, has brought a feeling of biting social commentary to fashion's often airheaded proceedings.
The designer has long-since understood the importance of meaningful collaborations. He has duly worked with some serious talent down the years, from artist Linder Sterling, stylist and i-D icon Judy Blame, model and singer Leslie Winer, and the young design duo Rottingdean Bazaar. Most recently he teamed up with acclaimed perfumer Mark Buxton, to launch his first fragrance earlier this year.
This appreciation for collaborative adventure is partly what attracts Shannon to the video for Neneh Cherry's 1990 hit, "I've Got You Under My Skin." The single was a cover version of a 1936 Cole Porter original, that everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Frank Sinatra had turned their vocal chords too.
This time around, however, the song's mood, meaning, and lyrics were radically updated by Cherry to raise awareness about AIDS — as part of a wider charity album project, to which other artists also contributed, titled Red Hot + Blue.
Directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino and styled by the aforementioned Judy Blame, it notably featured dancing from the masked and catsuit-clad muscular model-turned-singer Roy Brown (who, by the way, performs lead vocals on the recently released Horse Meat Disco track, "Waiting for You to Call").
Here, Shannon recalls the initial impact and ongoing appeal of the video, as well as his own eventual collaboration with Cherry.
"I remember seeing Neneh on Top of the Pops, when I was at primary school. Everyone at the time was very into the music of PWL [mainstream UK record label which unleashed endless cheery pop hits]. I thought she just seemed so much more interesting. The music sounded better than pop and the clothes didn't look naff. Then I bought her single, "Inna City Mama," on CD, I think maybe when I was 10. I also loved her album, "Raw Like Sushi." I wanted that sound and to look like that — bomber jacket and Africa pendants, which were not really that passable on a ten-year-old in suburban Liverpool.
I think my aunt or uncle had the Red Hot + Blue album, which "I've Got You Under My Skin" was on. I remember browsing the booklet in the CD and reading about AIDS for the first time in a way that wasn't scary and distant. At school it was still talked about like some joke lurgy that happened to gays and drug addicts.
I was always looking at things and for things, and I thought all the pop music that was being aimed at kids was a bit naff. Also, maybe I was trying to keep up with the older kids a bit. I think I first saw the video for "I've Got You Under My Skin" on The Chart Show, which we watched on TV on Saturday mornings. The video just didn't look like anything I'd seen before. There wasn't loads of stupid dancing, it seemed quite contained within itself. I guess now I would put that down to it being a genuine piece of work, made by people who really wanted to honor those they'd lost and to bring awareness to AIDS. Things don't get made like that anymore, I don't think. Everything is very Simon Cowell-esque now, so aware of itself.
The video has such a timeless quality. Genuine work always does, give or take the resolution of the footage or whatever. Also, there's a real mix of people in it which represented my world a little more than day-to-day music videos or TV of the time. Roy looks like a hyper muscular Leigh Bowery, doesn't he? The eye mask is incredible.
I think sometimes teams of people come together and everything works. Neneh, Judy, and Mondino are one of those perfect teams to me. I'd love to see more work like that, rather than an inflated stylist throwing whatever new hideous thing is around at a pop star who's not really engaged with what they are doing.
The video is one of those moments where everything comes together, to do justice to a really famous song, to bring something new to it and to share a message and a story. Then to add such a clear visual story. I think also everything you see now seems so obviously referenced to death. Like everyone goes to the same book shop — which clearly they do. I miss a time of ideas and genuine collaboration. Usually loads of brilliant things mixed together over egg the thing a bit, but not here, the mix is perfect. Maybe there's a level of respect between the collaborators and not so much of a sense of ambition? More a sense of making something that's just really good.
I've since met Neneh many times. She seems super easy-going, a sort of gentle and thoughtful person who believes in the value of creativity and your own point of view — my favorite kind of person, really. And she has a life outside of the ridiculousness of the industry, something else I'm a fan of. Oddly, I did her tour costumes with her and Judy for the last album in 2014, Blank Project. Mondino had seen her in some raggy shorts I'd done for her, which made him want to make the video for the single "Everything." So then we worked on that together. I can't think about the full circle of that, really. It's too much to get my head around."