Christopher Shannon: 'I’m not led by Savile Row'

On the eve of his autumn/winter ’14 collection, designer Christopher Shannon talks about running his own business and his many plans

When I visit Christopher Shannon in his London studio on the last Friday before Christmas, he’s just had a glass of Bucks Fizz to “get through” a fitting of the autumn/winter ’14 collection he will show this Wednesday. But, as the designer’s plentiful Twitter following can attest – he doesn’t need a glass of fizz to loosen his lips. Shannon a Liverpool-born Central Saint Martins graduate has taken to the social network with aplomb – delivering sardonic observations sprinkled with tantalising behind-the-scenes gossip.

But his acerbic persona is meant mostly in jest, and luckily his subjects can see the funny side. At the recent British Fashion Awards, Shannon was approached by Dermot O’Leary, who jokingly quoted back a tweet that had disparaged him as a choice for a role as menswear ambassador. “I thought, ‘Twitter’s really caught up with me’,” he tells me.

Despite that interaction, the British Fashion Awards were something of a disappointing night for Shannon, who lost out on the award for emerging menswear designer to duo Agi & Sam. Considering that Shannon graduated in 2008, and has two successful menswear lines stocked in more than 50 stores internationally to his name as well as a veritable bounty of collaborations under his belt, it seemed somewhat unfair for him to still be classed as emerging. “I made my peace with the British Fashion Awards long ago, it’s so not me as a scene,” he says. “You should always antagonise the establishment… I haven’t got a problem with Savile Row but I’m not going to be led by it.”

Fashion designer Christopher Shannon Fashion designer Christopher Shannon  

Indeed, Shannon’s aesthetic is a world away from the buttoned-up style of Savile Row, but he finds it “lazy” to label his work as sportswear, and the same goes for those who focus on his Liverpudlian roots. “My mum finds it outrageous,” he says. “I moved to London when I was 18 so I was a kid. I mean I’m very much from Liverpool, but I don’t sit around thinking about it. That’s other people’s perception.”

His latest collection – a series of sketches, fabric swatches and unfinished samples when I visit – may be making a rod for his own back then. Shannon tells me the mood was set by old photographs of Liverpool and job centres in the Seventies: “I realised so many of the images I had are sort of broken-down. I was thinking about the first track suits, which apart from being for sport or school kit would have been homemade from a pattern. I was thinking about that really synthetic quality of fabric and that shape and fit – that sort of seedy connotation that I quite liked about it.

Fashion designer Chris Shannon's mood board, seen ahead of his December 2013 menswear show in London (Teri Pengilley) Fashion designer Chris Shannon's mood board, seen ahead of his December 2013 menswear show in London (Teri Pengilley)  

“Then I realised that the images were all of the early Thatcher years and people were smoking in all of them and how fabulous all the fag packets were. And everything that I looked at had a fag packet and some wallpaper in, and that really sums up the time. Aspirational but really depressing.”

Complicated as this may seem, Shannon creates catwalk shows that can’t help but engage the audience. For spring/summer ’14, models with glitter-spray-painted hair wore acid pastel shirts and shorts in latex, Liberty prints and patent leather. Inspiration had come in part from a photo of Shannon on his 16th birthday, doused in glitter and ready to rave.

Unusually, he doesn’t work with a stylist, casting agent or music consultant, preferring to work with his studio team. “The boys [male models] have changed so much in London since I started. Which I think I was quite fundamental to because we always did a different casting. Now there’s a really good mix, people from all over and with different skin tones and it feels like what I always wanted casting to be.”

Fashion designer Chris Shannon's mood board, seen ahead of his December 2013 menswear show in London (Teri Pengilley) Fashion designer Chris Shannon's mood board, seen ahead of his December 2013 menswear show in London (Teri Pengilley)  

After his BA, Shannon had to choose between a job as a print designer and a scholarship to continue his studies at Central Saint Martins with an MA in Menswear. “I thought, ‘I’m going to have to go.’ It was the first time they’d offered a scholarship for years, and if Louise Wilson offers you a scholarship then you accept it.”

Upon graduation, Shannon thought that he would take a job in a design house, but he was drafted in to the prestigious Topman-sponsored MAN line-up, then awarded NewGen sponsorship. “I haven’t really stopped to think since then!” Perhaps being head of his own label was Shannon’s destiny – both his parents were self-employed and as he freely admits: “I was never very good with authority.”

Since graduating, Shannon has collaborated with Eastpak, Kickers, Topman and the Cambridge Satchel Company, and in early 2012 launched Kidda – a second, more affordable offering that does particularly well: “We sold out 100 per cent in Liverpool, full price. Nobody does that.” That same year, he was one of three London designers chosen to create costumes for the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. “It wasn’t a nightmare, but I felt a bit pushed into it emotionally. If someone else had been asked, maybe I’d have been miffed, but I’m glad I did it because my family, who went, enjoyed it so much.”

Sadly, once his show on Wednesday is over, Shannon won’t get the “month off” he always hopes for. Instead, this year will see him publish a book, finally create a much-in-demand women’s collection and work with Judy Blame on tour costumes for his childhood idol Neneh Cherry, as well as launch a collaboration with footwear brand Dune. If he had the time, Shannon would love his own fragrance and to design menswear for Moschino.

With that work ethic, no wonder he’s always exhausted: “People think you swan in, have a glass of wine, light a Diptyque, photocopy a lipstick reference and then go home. Running your own company is really hard work.” Hard work it may be, but, right now, Shannon wouldn’t do anything else – other than have a month off!

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

    £26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

    QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

    £35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

    Property Finance Partner

    Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

    Agile Tester

    £28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried