Christopher Shannon is a menswear designer who hails from Liverpool. His quirky but highly wearable designs have not only been growing from strength to strength, but have been gathering a rather impressive collection of top-class outlets in Europe. In the USA, his collections are stocked in the super-hip Opening Ceremony stores.
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 or underlying references for garments. But, you would be wrong to view him as either a sportswear designer or someone whose designs were directly that. Rather, the humble tracksuit or sweatshirt – which let’s face it, in the real world are still worn by more men than swanky tailoring whether one likes it or not- are often his starting point. From these he creates something new. One might even say that he elevates the basic silhouettes of sportswear garments to their full potential, creating something luxurious and overtly designed out of the building blocks of clothing that we often overlook. Furthermore, their very basis in sportswear means that they retain a similar practicality and comfort as the sportswear clothes from which they are elaborated.
His current collection 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 similar roomy comfort for which these trousers remain so popular through to more decorative versions. Bold prints or patches of contrast colour are used to break up the simple monochromatic palettes, or, in the more showy silhouettes, they gain fin-like ruffles. Similarly, jackets and tops based on familiar sportswear garments acquire dramatic detail such as ruffles or even a cape-like shoulder construction. Quilting is another motif, something that introduces the idea of traditional English country style. This aspect is particularly important in the collection. Jackets in the form of traditional quilted Barbour jackets or old-fashioned knitwear forge a bold new identity in which the extant class connotations of sportswear are reviewed.
Folksy touches through textiles and blousson sleeve details bring a romantic twist, demanding that we see a folkloric possibility in simple sportswear garments that was not there before. Similarly, Christopher Shannon’s repeated use of bold prints that owe something to the avant-garde UK street styles of the 1980’s pulls the sportswear aspect in a more experimental direction; more to standing in the queue at Taboo or shopping at Hyper Hyper than hanging around a football pitch.
One of the great things about Christopher Shannon’s AW11 collection is that it’s perfectly pitched towards many male admirers. 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.