There’s a mood of pessimism running through this season’s shows. Why wouldn’t there be, what with Brexit, Trump and the general awfulness ushered in by 2016. But Christopher Shannon has always been something of a depressive - cynicism suits him. His jaded, often ironic take on fashion and consumerism cuts through a lot of the nonsense that gets applauded during the circus of fashion week. He’s good at twisting the ordinary and mocking the exceptional. Remember those plays on the classic Sports Direct bags? Genius. This season, for A/W 17, he’d adopted the trick pioneered by nineties zine Cheap Date for subverting classic logos. Think Timberland as Tumbleweed. My favourite was 'Constant Stress' - a refreshing reminder that life in the fashion industry is usually painful and exhausting rather than glamourous.
Recently, Shannon has collaborated with Adam Murray and I on North, our recently opened exhibition held at Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery (you’ll find a corresponding project on SHOWstudio). That city is Shannon’s hometown, and he confessed backstage that his time spent musing about his roots had stuck with him. It’s never really far from his mind - his A/W 16 presentation, for example, drew heavily on his hometown - but he’s discussed struggling with being pigeonholed because of his roots; branded constantly as an an outsider, the othering tag 'Liverpudlian' never far from his name. This season he seemed more comfortable with promoting these origins - they are, to the outside eye, in part what makes him so brilliant. I sense that in the way he toys with the performative masculinity that is so associated with the North - hence the mix of something tough and something camp. Many pieces were literal hybrids; two jumpers spliced together or a cotton sweatshirt morphing into a shiny piece of sportswear. The soundtrack certainly suggested a Northern gaze; Pete Wylie listing Northern towns to a techno beat filled the show space. It's Grim Up North. Well it’s grim everywhere right now.
'Grim.' That’s a good word for Shannon. He revels in things that are a bit ugly, a bit strange, a bit awkward, even a bit sad. You could call it angst. I call it healthy disdain.