We here at Slamxhype are huge fans of what Christopher Shannon is producing as of late. His reworked ‘refined scallyism’ sportswear is a nod to the designer’s Northern heritage, which we like. Oki-ni have Christopher Shannon as one of their ‘New Face Of Menswear’ designers, another fantastic decision from the guys at Oki-ni getting out there and supporting young designers who are really talented and have great things to offer our industry.
This being his second season with Oki-ni and to give something a bit special back to their customers, Chris has put together a behind the scenes film to showcase the Spring/Summer 2010 collection that will be stocked in the online store. In partnership with the release of the new film, oki-ni Creative Director John Skelton has also interviewed designer Christopher Shannon for oki-ni’s ‘New Faces of Menswear’.
See short film and interview from Christopher Shannon below. Enjoy!
John: We know that you’ve had a lot of really good support from press and the show and that’s really worked in your favour. We wanted to carry that through by getting it into a store and an opportunity to sell. Is this the first collection that you’ve done that you’ve actually put on sale?Christopher Shannon
John: And previous to that have been working under any other alias or on another Christopher Shannon line but not really trying to sell it?
Christopher: The last thing I produced was the stuff I did with Judy Blame, that’s one of the last big productions that I did. And then because I got my fabric sponsored it wasn’t worth doing. I should’ve really gone to production last season because the collection was really easy to produce and we had loads of interests for it, because it was spring summer. But this is the first season I’m going to go through it, and it is really tough. Because we’re aware what we do is quite simple as well but because of that it needs to be really really good. It needs to be as slick as Visvim for example; it needs to be up there in quality. Especially because we’ve had so much interest from Japan as well.
John: The hype around your stuff this season is been great- there’s been loads of press, it’s been all over the web but with the few brands and collections previous to that they have a bit of buzz around them, but when LFW is done it all kind of drops off and there’s no one actually writing orders.
Christopher: I think as well that our stuff is really store friendly but it’s enough within the collection that you can get it on the rail. Which is why I think we have so many collaborations as well. Like oki-ni backing us on the stuff that we’re doing and understanding that it does have a retail value.
John: Since this is your first collection, how easy has it been getting in touch with the buying teams?
Christopher: We’re in the position where people have come to us. So we haven’t really had to chase anyone for anything but I suppose that is probably quite rare. Again that’s because people identify it as something that they can sell I think.
John: So have you had much interest from the UK then?
Christopher: Yeah loads, but we’ve got to be realistic on what we can do as well for the season. So we’re going to keep it quite small until next season we can get more things into place and make sure we can do bigger orders. We’ve actually just cancelled two orders from Japan and one over here just to make sure we can produce the ones that we want to do really really well. I would hate to do one season and for people to be disappointed with what we delivered.
John: Yeah, yeah I understand. Have you found the support system for new menswear designers to be ok?
Christopher: No, No. But which bits of the support system do you mean?
John: This is what we’re trying to establish …
Christopher: Well yeah, it’s been really fucking tough. You work 7 days a week and then you’re awake around 3 o’clock in the morning stressing about zips and threads and fabric sourcing. The things that fuck me over and that are really hardcore to deal with are fabric sourcing because I never wanna just buy from shit suppliers. If I find a fabric I want to use then I want to put it in the show but then to find it again in bigger quantities if you’ve only found a bit of it is difficult. It’s really hardcore. It’s not so much the buying side we can deal with that, it’s the sourcing factories that you can trust and that you’re going to be happy with. The production side is tough. The unfortunate side at the minute is that a lot of the factories are closing down but at the same time factories are taking smaller orders which kind of works in your favour. But everything else is a piece of piss next to those things.
John: What we wanted to try and establish is if there’s a way that we could potentially partner with some other body to kind of help the younger kids that are just getting out of uni?
Christopher: I was actually thinking about this this morning specifically for the menswear and the next step because obviously we have three MAN shows in a row so we’re not gonna get a fourth because three is the optimum. What are we going to do next season? So many of the people I work with are womenswear designers and obviously they have the Fashion East thing and New Generation and they can go for like 9 seasons with supported shows. If you’re lucky in menswear you get cut off after 3! But I think someone getting something together with the BFC (British Fashion Council) would be great. To be honest I don’t think the catwalk show matters- it would be better if someone would sponsor menswear designers to get to Paris in time, even for just a showroom or an event? Which I think could be a really slick thing to do. We miss the menswear week for sales because our show goes out in London during the womenswear week.
John: Yeah, that’s kind of what we were thinking about but i’m actually quite interested in trying to get something back to London for menswear. BFC would actually be quite interesting to have a chat with- maybe if we got a few old school British menswear brands to come back to London to show menswear? And then underpin it with all these new, younger menswear designers and actually create a men’s event In London?
Christopher: It always seems to go arse up though? For some reason?
John: Yeah, I feel like it’s because no one’s really putting anything into it
Christopher: I heard the other day that New Generation wanted to do a hat thing! I was like, what the fuck are they doing hats for before they do menswear??!! You know? Because I don’t know anyone who even wears hats. I know loads of men and they all wear clothes. It’s stupid that they can do some ridiculous pressy thing like that before they do something really core. They’ve realised now that the MAN thing works pretty well and has generated interest for menswear in general, not just for people involved in the show. I think everyone is aware that something else needs to happen but what it’s going to be I don’t know. It feels a bit shit going to Paris but what else are you going to do? You’ve got to see those people and they’re all in that one place.
John: You’re totally right
Christopher: I’m not in such a bad position in the fact that I’ve got a sponsor and backers behind me but if I didn’t I don’t know what I’d do. I probably wouldn’t do it to be honest.
John: Yeah, I mean that’s the thing, there’s no way that you guys can actually take a stand and say that you’re not going to go to Paris, you’re just going to stay here because none of the big guns are and that’s where the problem started.
Christopher: I suppose the other thing you could do is make sure that you’re at sales week for Paris and then do a presentation in London?
John: Paris is obviously the most relevant place in Europe for us lot as far as I’m concerned. For what we do Paris is where it’s at. I’m not even going to Milan this time. New York isn’t that relevant for me personally, Tokyo’s really relevant but it’s on the other side of the world so I think that London could be quite an important place at the moment and I think that there’s obviously a lot of stuff going on and a lot of stuff coming out of it and it would be nice to get a bit of men’s representation.
Christopher: Yeah, unless what you did is you timed it to run before men’s Paris? Because at least everyone is near. And all you need is a tent and some security?
John: The problem for us at the moment is that we’re still very small ourselves and we need some kind of bigger body to get behind it.
Christopher: It would be one of the high street retailers that want to associate themselves with something like this. New Look or River Island? Or a big sports brand? Or a big name. Because Burberry’s back this season and about time.
John: Tell us a little bit about this Topman project? You’ve sold the collection to them to go on their multi branded floor?
Christopher: They’re doing a new floor and I think there’s only three of us up there at the minute. It’s like a little pop up shop. I think it’ll only be J.W Anderson and James Long as far as I know. So I’ll just be in there in London and on oki-ni obviously. And that’s enough. We’ve got so much product going out with different things that we don’t really need to shift loads of units. Next season we do need to do that but we’ve got time to prepare for that at the minute.
John: Are you thinking about doing a show next season?
Christopher: We’ll do something. I think we’ll probably do some kind of presentation that we can do in both Paris and London. It’s hardcore. You want everything that you do to be sustainable in some way. Because anyone can throw a party you know?
John: Our initial aim was to get behind some kind of event that would create some retail awareness so that other buyers would take a risk, we obviously can’t buy into every new menswear designer out there, we’ve just bought what we think is the best for us. It would be good to get someone to fund something like this- so that you guys could possibly sell on SOR (Sale or Return) so that you can at least get it into stores. It’s tricky.
Christopher: It is tricky but the hardest thing for me was the production side. Being able to turn the product out and make any money out of it is the hardest part. If I was reliant on my sales we’d be in a really tricky position. Luckily we’ve got other people producing things for us. But unfortunately not everyone is lucky enough to be in that position.