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!

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
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

    Recruitment Genius: Web Development Manager

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

    Recruitment Genius: Service and Installation Engineer

    £22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO / Outreach Executive

    £20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a global marketin...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

    £17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?