Christopher Shannon, chosen by Italo Zuchelli at Calvin Klein
Tell us about your stellar rise over the past year or so.
I don’t know about stellar!?. It’s been loads of hard work, but this time thankfully the effort seems to have paid off. Looking back I think I looked for good opportunities and when they came along I worked hard to make the most of them. So far that plan seems to be working.
You’ve worked with some big names thus far, who has been your most important collaborator to date?
On a personal level the stuff I did with Judy Blame I’m still really proud of. I was and still am a ’fan’ of Judy and the way that he works, to do one thing well is amazing but to be able to work in loads of different ways in a really creative way is rare. Doing the bags with Eastpak has been great and they have also been incredible to work with and made the process really enjoyable.
What is it about menswear that appeals? Is it not more restrictive than womenswear design?
I can’t remember what made me make the decision. I just knew I wasn’t interested in doing womenswear, I think you get some menswear designers that are frustrated womenswear designers but I’ve just never felt the urge. I suppose I liked the restrictions of menswear and always saw them as a positive. There seems to be this constant cycle of thought in menswear that men are oppressed and if they were liberated they would wear skirts, from what I see men throughout history, men have always done as they wanted, if they wanted to wear skirts they would.
Who would you pick as your key fashion world influences?
As for designers, Comme des Garcons and Moschino have had a big influence on me, but more commercial brands such as Stussy and the early Felix Blow stuff were really fundamental when I was studying fashion. Equally, photographers like Mondino had a huge impact growing up. When I first studied I got massively into Margiela and also the work Helmut Lang and Melanie Ward did together. All of the above seems to have really stood the test of time.
Your work could be described as deconstructed sportswear with a high-luxe edge - what are the primary maxims of your design process?
Well, I suppose that it doesn’t look pretentious or as if I’ve just indulged myself as a designer. I do think I work more like an art director than a fashion designer. I’ve never really wanted to create stories or characters. In the studio we focus on the product piece by piece rather than trying to invent someone. I think we produce a collection that has someone who actually exists in mind rather than a cliché fashion fantasy of a man.
What are your thoughts on the British fashion industry?
Frustrating is the first word that comes to mind. London will always be a place that thrives on hype and I suppose I find it a bit exhausting, because it seems to distract from the better quality work. That said nowhere else in the world do new designers get the same platform or support - so you have to be thankful for that.
Who would you cite as your biggest inter-industry advocates thus far?
The first is Professor Louise Wilson, who gave me a scholarship to do my MA. I’d had a really hard 18 months and was about to resign myself to working in a dreadful job. I knew that scholarships where rare and without one I would have had to forget the MA. The second is Lulu Kennedy and the rest of the MAN panel, coming out of the MA last year was pretty grim and to have a panel of really good people show interest in what you do is pretty amazing.
Do you intend to continue showing in London?
The plan is to do a smaller collection of sales pieces in Paris in January then present the whole collection at the New Gen Men show in London in February. The timing of New Gen Men couldn’t be better for us and it’s going to be a challenge to do a bigger collection and step out from the MAN umbrella. I just hope we can maintain the level of work into the future.