Written by James Anderson
Posted 27/09/2012
Christopher Shannon: What Are You Into? - Portrait

In the first of a series that gets to the bottom of the inspirations that make up the creative journey for fashion industry figures, James Anderson talks to leading London menswear designer Christopher Shannon.

London-based Menswear designer Christopher Shannon hails from Liverpool and graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2008. Previously having assisted Kim Jones and worked with stylist and art director William Baker, as well as collaborating on a T-shirt line with Judy Blame during the earlier half of the Noughties, Shannon founded his eponymous label towards the end of the last decade. He has since proved himself more than capable of creating modern men's clothing devoid of pomp and pretension but, thanks to his understanding of pop culture and talent for striking print-based work, never plain. His regular shows have now firmly established themselves as keenly anticipated highlights at London's Menswear Fashion Week. Here Shannon discusses both his long-standing and latest sources of reference, selecting six that have made a real impact on his process.
Christopher Shannon: What Are You Into? (1)

TV Documentaries about Compulsive Hoarders

There's been a lot of TV programmes about hoarders and hoarding recently, and I've watched all of them. Hoarding is a bit like art, it's a visual representation of someone's mind. I find that fascinating. I love the line between art and mental health issues. Watching these programmes is a reminder to me not to hold on to stuff too much, which you can do with ideas or research. Sometimes you just have to get rid and start again.

Christopher Shannon: What Are You Into? (2)

Judy Blame Jewellery

I first became aware of Judy because of his styling and art direction work with Massive Attack, Bjork and Shakespeare's Sister, and his shoots in magazines like i-D and The Face. Judy's stuff is all made from found objects and I love the hand-work involved in that. There's a real wit to the pieces - like you're wearing the crown jewels, but they're made from buttons and champagne corks. I hate the obsession with superbrands and celebrity, it's so depressing and distracting. But Judy is quite punk and has never really sold out to all that.

Christopher Shannon: What Are You Into? (3)

Love is the Devil, 1998, Directed by John Maybury

I'm not really one for fantasy or fictional stories; I've always found documentaries and factual stories infinitely more interesting. Years ago I was working a lot on pop styling with William Baker in Soho, where Love Is the Devil is based. William thought Love Is the Devil was great and gave me a copy. My only previous experience of Bacon was seeing his retrospective at the Hayward Gallery a few years before. Aside from Love Is the Devil being a brilliant story, Alan MacDonald's art direction on the film is incredible. Bacon's paintings are such a hard thing for anyone else to capture, but somehow they manage to create that same feeling in the film. There's a roughness to it, it's not some awful shiny biopic.

Christopher Shannon: What Are You Into? (4)

Toxteth Riot Image from 1981

This is one of my favorite images of all time - it's a reminder to not take any shit from morons. It's supposedly of Leroy Cooper, whose arrest sparked the Toxteth riots in 1981. I love that the photograph is so momentary and unstaged, yet the composition is great. The home-made balaclava and his jacket are perfect - if you are going to riot you may as well have your look together!

Christopher Shannon: What Are You Into? (5)

Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences

I knew about Grayson because of his ceramics and he teaches at Saint Martins. I caught a few episodes of Grayson's recent TV series, In The Best Possible Taste, but was so engrossed by the content I hadn't at first been paying much attention to the fact that he was making the tapestries as part of the TV series. I was just blown away by them, though. To see a huge scale tapestry have the same sort of qualities as a painting, and in no way be inferior, was really inspiring. We are working on some embroideries this season, so I'm sure something about the tapestries will creep in…

Christopher Shannon: What Are You Into? (6)

Witch by Leslie Winer

I'd gone into one of those internet rabbit holes where you get all eager to find a gem. I found Leslie's track, John Says, and from first listen I was completely intrigued. It's spoken word but the beats are really like old house meets early trip hop. I got hold of a copy of her album, Witch, in France, and every track is really incredible. It still sounds so fresh, even though it's 22 years old. The album has two covers - one is a great photo of Leslie taken by Jean Michel Basquiat. Then, it turned out, Leslie had been a really big model in the '80s. I didn't know that, so it was funny how it came back full circle to fashion. Finding someone who wanted to make work - very personal work - but not get caught up in the music industry, or the fame aspect of it, was mind-blowing. Fashion can be so Debbie Desperate sometimes, and I loathe that needy networking side of it!

Expanding on Christopher's inspiration found in Leslie Winer, we feature her and her music as this months Recommended Reading