Christopher Shannon is a menswear designer who hails from Liverpool. His quirky but highly wearable designs have grown from strength to strength and have been gathering a rather impressive collection of top-class outlets internationally. In the USA, his collections are stocked in the super-hip Opening Ceremony stores, for example.
In contrast to most young menswear designers who have persistently focussed on traditional men’s tailoring as a starting point, Christopher Shannon zooms in on casual and sportswear as sources of inspiration for garments. But, you would be wrong to view him as a sportswear designer. Rather, the humble tracksuit or sweatshirt – which let’s face it, in the real world are still worn by more men than swanky tailoring- are often his starting point. From these he creates something new. You might even say that he elevates the basic silhouettes of sportswear garments to their full potential, creating something unique, overtly designed out of the building blocks of clothing that we often overlook. But, their very basis in sportswear means that they retain a similar practicality and comfort as the clothes from which they are elaborated.
His current collection SS16 is a fine example of this. Trousers drawn on the simple line of tracksuit trousers are taken in various directions from a narrow line with a roomy comfort through to more decorative versions; zips and flaps. Bold prints or patches of contrast colour are used to break up the simple palettes. In the showier silhouettes, they gain even superhero stylings.
Jackets and tops based on familiar sportswear garments acquire dramatic detail such as contrast fabrics or sculptural versions of industrial protective clothing. Patchwork is another motif, with clashing ginghams, checks and pinstripes fragmenting the surface of shirts and jackets. Folksy touches through textiles and sleeve details bring a romantic twist; we see an innocent possibility that was not there before. This aspect is particularly important in the collection that forges a bold new identity in which the class connotations of sportswear are questioned, something of an ongoing fascination for Shannon. His man does look a little like a chav or a thug, but a very sweet one.
As usual, Christopher Shannon’s use of bold prints and textiles pulls it all in a more experimental direction; pop art you can wear. And, one of the great things about Christopher Shannon’s SS16 collection is that it’s perfectly pitched towards many men. Certainly, it won’t necessarily please men who truly do prefer suits, but for anyone who favours an upmarket street style that combines casualness, luxury and comfort, it’s a bit of a winner.