Today, more than any other time, footwear is important. In menswear, shoes, and especially trainers, have become the equivalent of handbags and perfumes in the women’s fashion industry. Brands spend as much time on getting the accessories right as they do on the ready-to-wear clothes as, at the end of the day, that’s where the money will come from. And if you don’t do shoes, which in itself is a major operation, you have to look around you and find a partner to collaborate with. That’s exactly what London designer Christopher Shannon has done.
A longtime staple during London Collections: Men, and the recent winner of the first BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund, Shannon was part of creating a new breed of contemporary fashion inspired by equal amount sportswear and streetwear. Footwear, as we all know, plays a massive role in those fields as well. Since last season, Shannon has collaborated with classic construction company Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) to rework some of their more iconic boot models. In January, the Liverpudlian designer showed his second season, dominated by a new version of CAT’s Colorado style. Removing laces and adding nylon details, Shannon updated the workwear boot to the 21st century, while also adding his own very characteristic look. Over the years, Shannon has succeeded in coherently displaying his design DNA, season after season pushing his aesthetic forward while still consistently staying true to his fundamental ideas. These boots, and most likely the ones we’ll see in June for Spring/Summer 2016, are now a natural part of that look…
What’s your relationship to CAT? Did you wear them when you were younger?
I did. It was an ongoing challenge to find black footwear you could wear for school that wasn’t really naff. I remember I bought a black suede Colorado with gum sole and white top stitching. They were a bit too big but I wanted them so badly I just wore thicker socks and a steel toe cap which was always handy for school.
Were there any sub-cultural connections?
I think any clothing or footwear that has its roots in workwear usually has some connection to sub-culture.
It’s very much a workwear boot. Who does the style correspond to with the Christopher Shannon aesthetic?
I think my research always touches on documentary photography and portrait work, and often from British photographers. The imagery is based in realism and working life, that’s something we strive to embrace and distort. I love working with staple garments and pieces that relate to real life.
What style did you work on for Fall/Winter 2015? What did you do to them?
We worked on the changes we had already made to the Colorado for the Spring/Summer 2015 show. I just loved the back zip and the removal of the laces, it almost looked like a moulded shoe, so we decided to carry on working with that, with nylons rather than leathers.
It’s your second collaboration with CAT. How has that relationship grown and changed?
I think you build trust. It’s always difficult to work with huge companies as their time lines are so much further in advance than ours. As a smaller company you have the luxury of being a bit more spontaneous. I think CAT now trust that I’m not out to ruin their heritage – I just like bringing another point of view.
Is it an ongoing partnership? Would you want to rework another CAT style?
I’ve already started the direction for Spring/Summer 2016. It’s quite a different direction for CAT and the technology we are working with is really advanced and new to me which makes it exciting.