Christopher Shannon had two downbeat images in his mind when he started work on his Fall collection. One was a glimpse through the window of a derelict building into a room where floral wallpaper peeled forlornly from the wall. The other was a schoolboy walking home from football practice in the pouring rain. It's not like Shannon is one of those wide-eyed wonderers who finds beauty in everything. He's more the kind of mordant reactionary on whom Brit pop culture feeds with glee—Morrissey à la mode, if you will. And, just like Moz, the extent to which Shannon is drawn to inspirations that sound positively depressing, even grim, is determined by how much he hates the shiny, shallow way he feels things are now. "Raw and rough" is his ethos.
And yet, it never quite reads that way in Shannon's clothes. The peeling wallpaper, for instance, became a surprisingly appealing floral graphic that "peeled" down shirts and pants, and loaned a curious kind of fragility to big sporty puffas. There was a little of Warhol in the idea of transforming such unpromising source material into something so artful. Even more so with the cigarette-packet knits which opened the show. "Ciggies are gross, but they look fabulous," Shannon chortled. His certainly did.
Shannon placed his mental pictures of wallpaper and sodden schoolboy in the seventies. He wasn't around to experience those years firsthand, but they tug at his heartstrings for what he calls their "vibrancy amid melancholy." More significant for his career, it was also the decade that saw the birth of the tracksuit as casualwear. Like his mentor Kim Jones before him, Shannon has mastered the alchemical knack of turning the brass of basic athletic gear into the pure gold of a singular fashion statement. You could see the kid walking home in the rain in any of the models on the catwalk today. "Kitted, like a football team," was the way Shannon described their look. But the kit was completely transformed: a cagoule in peach leather, sporty knits flipped and elongated to the ankle, and tracksuits sprouting extra sleeves and tails like Siamese twins were all radical reinterpretations of painfully familiar everyday items. Same with stylist/jeweler/legend Judy Blame's oddly delicate assemblages of chains and pins and money, which Shannon draped around his boys' necks. "Raw and rough" may be his goal, but his sensibility is much finer than he lets on.