Return to the roots

Denim, sportswear and Robert Mapplethorpe: Christopher Shannon previews his SS17 collection
By Tempe Nakiska | Fashion | 11 June 2016
This article is part of Fashion Week – London, Milan, Paris, NYC

It was telling that last season Christopher Shannon went back to his roots. The Liverpudlian designer put out a collection that celebrated his childhood memories of suburbia – neighbourly weirdness and ciggie-smoking shadows behind net curtains. Presented in a static gallery space the presentation was symbolic hit of the ‘refresh’ button.

Speaking to Shannon before his SS17 show it’s clear he’s charged with fresh energy. The designer is putting his clothes back on the catwalk (where they get the exhilarating debut they deserve), and says he’s been thinking a lot about sportswear in its realest form. No, not the cool, trend-driven stuff of today but the real kind he grew up around. The clothes that shaped his brand before it was one. Mixed with some tantalising denim references (ahem, Judy Blame) it’s safe to say this collection’s going to be a killer.

Last season saw you look back at your time growing up in Liverpool, can you tell us about the the narrative for your FW16 collection?
Christopher Shannon: It’s less of a straightforward narrative. I think last season came from being in a gallery static space and creating a world within that. There’s a definite sense of falling apart this season, it’s more wearable than usual and more sturdy, I was in a certain mood and I built the imagery around that. 

“I wanted to go back to the roots of where the brand came from, my MA collection, when everyone was really sniffy about sportswear and actually quite rude. Now everyone’s on it.”


Are there any new techniques or fabrications you have incorporated?
CS: I made a decision to only work in cottons, the whole collection. I was so bored with nylon and the endless dramas with the factories that we went back to basics.

“I’d always loved this Judy Blame denim hat he did for George, I sort of grouped together all my favourite denim references from our archive of research and looked at what related them” – Christopher Shannon

What excites you the most about this season?
CS: How we’ve only used a small palette and three fabrics. It was like being back at college, just reworking rather than adding for the sake of ‘luxury’, I’m so exhausted by all that. I don’t think it brings newness or interesting ideas. I knew last season was resetting the way we work. It was a sort of stop point to look at the work and see where we wanted to go with it rather than just legging it forward, and I like this new way of working, things feel achievable and new.

For SS17 you’re showing your collection on the catwalk, as opposed to last season when you opted for a presentation. Is there a particular reason for this?CS: I loved showing in Alison Jacques last season, I think I liked the set and the footage more than the ‘fashion’ element. I loved the gallery when it was just the structures and the music, it didn’t need fashion or an audience. The elements I’d incorporated to set the mood were enough on their own to be a piece of work. This season is quite singular, it’s more about looks than outfits and I think you need the catwalk for that. Also, I didn’t realise last season I’d have to be out front talking to everyone, that’s not quite my scene, I like the barrier of the catwalk between me and the audience.

And what have you more generally been up to since last season, does it strongly relate to your SS17 collection?
CS: I think everything relates, it’s all one long slog rather than separate, although that would be preferable. We’ve been working on our e-commerce, our store started to be really busy the end of last year so we really want to dedicate more time to that. It’s really rewarding having a retail space you can be OCD about, and even more rewarding to make profit and to actually have first hand knowledge of what and when your customer buys. 

We are launching a new shoe collaboration this season that we will commercialise, which I always like. I like the product in the show to actually be available to buy, and also the more you work with a company the more you can exploit their skills. 

Our scent is nearly ready too, the first one. I’ve really loved that process, it’s quite like a therapy session working out why you respond to certain scents and how you apply that to the brand. The nose is Mark Buxton, who developed the early Comme fragrances, so he has quite a unique take on things. 

Also, we are launching a second line with a developer called North Quarter, the first collection drops exclusively to Flannels this August. The second season really feels like we’ve hit our stride, it’s more technical than our mainline and I think will appeal to a larger audience, whilst still having our handwriting. We also worked with Linder [Sterling] on a ballet for the British Art Show, which comes to London later in the summer. All of it relates to SS17, it’s all informative.

“I was really into the seediness of the denim in this Mapplethorpe movie. I wanted touches of that in the fit of the collection” – Christopher Shannon on Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures

“We listened to a lot of hi-energy in the studio, everything feels so exhausted in fashion at the minute. I was craving a time that seems quite party hard and upbeat, and cross referencing this with the consistent element of the brand.”

Christopher Shannon will show his SS17 collection at London Collections: Men at 12pm tomorrow, Sunday 12th June. 

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