The North Quarter by Christopher Shannon collection is a vision of modern and technical sportswear.
Famed for his knack for creating both aesthetically and technically beautiful designs, Christopher Shannon has taken a step away from his internationally-renowned mainline collection and put his focus into his new modernist sportswear collection, North Quarter by Christopher Shannon. In this brand new collection the menswear designer presents an innovative vision of technical sportswear and rewrites the rules as to what sportswear is supposed to be, and by pulling elements from his mainline designs, Shannon makes this collection as fashion-forward as it is practical. It’s Christopher Shannon all over.
The collection is formed of 50 distinctly branded styles – there’s no mistaking these designs for anything other than North Quarter. With a range of expertly-designed jackets, shirts, knits, sweats, over-shirts and jogging bottoms, the collection gets you ready to both relax and climb a mountain – something only Christopher Shannon could master. Coming in a sleek colour palette of bright red, electric blue, slate grey and black, his focus on each individual item is obvious; no detail has gone unnoticed and no zip has gone untested. Performance fabrics and innovative construction techniques takes the collection away from being too “fashiony” in his terms; the collection is practical and technically brilliant, but has exceptional design and an aesthetic idea that results in quite simply, real good sportswear.
Wonderland spoke to the designer about why he started North Quarter by Christopher Shannon, his design process and why tech fabrics are essential to modern sportswear.
What’s the idea behind North Quarter by Christopher Shannon?
To develop part of our sportswear performance-inspired DNA into a full range with which we can reach a wider audience – perhaps customers who like our accessories or footwear collaborations, but find the catwalk collection too fashiony.
What was the starting point for this collection?
Looking at where the two brands meet: the technical possibilities that North Quarter can achieve, and which elements of our mainline to bring to it. As this has evolved, North Quarter has begun to take on its own identity which has taken a while, but now we’ve really worked this out, and how we can develop it in the future.
How do the designs for North Quarter differ from mainline Christopher Shannon pieces?
The technical possibilities really take us in a new direction. Mainline is very about mood and the catwalk, where as North Quarter is very much a focus on product and singular items. There’s definitely a fit that I love in sportswear, and I really like to utilise the performance fabrics and finishes, but I’d hope in a way we bring the mood of our mainline in touches. It’s really about focusing item-by-item and on tiny nuances, whereas mainline is very about the full look and really pushing the mood of the show.
Talk to us about your decision to use fabrics like neoprene and bonded cottons – do you think tech fabrics are essential to modern premium sportswear?
I do yes. The factories are geared around newer ways of constructing items, and as a designer that’s really interesting to work with; how you can manipulate these facilities and fabrics in a way that brings freshness to the pieces.
You’ve utilised key silhouettes and design markers from your mainline for North Quarter – how did you choose what elements of your mainline aesthetic to reimagine for a detail-obsessed sportswear customer?
I think my fastidiousness regarding fit permeates into all my work more by habit. I will refit a garment as much as possible – it makes all the difference. I don’t think it’s so much about definite decisions, more about what fits organically without overpowering what we are trying to achieve with the product. I wouldn’t push an element of mainline into North Quarter if it didn’t benefit the piece.
Tell us about your colour palette choices? Why did you stick to bright reds, electric blues, slate grey and black?
In sportswear you can really utilise a high colour contrast without it looking too much. That’s harder with fashion as it can become a little cartoony. Colour for me is often informed by which fabrics and work best in those colourways.
Do you have a different process for designing for North Quarter by Christopher Shannon than you do for your mainline catwalk collections?
Oh completely, although I’m probably as annoying in both processes! Mainline is very much about drawing and sketching and looking maybe more at the past and personal references, thinking about the music and the casting; it’s such a big project really. North Quarter is much more immediate and focused in reality. It’s more like thinking ‘What nylon jacket do I really want me and my friends to be wearing this week?’.
You’ve said the collection gave you the opportunity to speak to the brand-led British males that inspired you creatively – just what is it about them that inspires your aesthetic?
That I see them everyday, wherever I am. I have never been a designer to fantasise about collection inspirations, I find it hard to be inspired by the rainforest when I’ve never been there. All my ideas come from just seeing people in the streets, sort of subverting the way people wear things. I grew up around a lot of British males, I guess they were my first references for learning about clothes and personal style.
Why do you think sportswear is having such a revival right now?
Because I started it about 6 years ago, when putting tracksuits down the catwalk was really sneered at.
What are the key pieces in the North Quarter by Christopher Shannon collection?
I always like the most progressive pieces the most, the new over the head anoraks and zip neck base layers I really like – they’re practical but super sharp.