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Christopher Shannon on Central Saint Martins BA Fashion 2012

The CSM alumni and panel member reviews this year's show

PhotographyWill Corry

Christopher Shannon is a name firmly ensconced on the London menswear schedule, his sportswear, which is actually a collection of hybrids beyond traditional sportswear, is a serial draw for attendees. Another talent that's passed through the influential MAN show, Shannon's designs, including print-based diffusion, Kidda, are stocked in over twenty locations worldwide, as well as online. Not shy of a collaboration, he's worked with the legendary stylist Judy Blame and artist Julie Verhoeven, too. Whilst the bags Shannon created with Eastpak hit reality hard – you'll seem them all over London, often on backs unaware of the story or pedigree, bought simply because they are great, eye-catching pieces of design.

With a proven track record, and not short of an opinion or two, this week Shannon sat on the panel for the Central Saint Martins BA Fashion show, whittling down the 41 showcasing to the particularly commendable Erin Hawkes, Alan Lee and Serena Gili as the top prizewinners. Exclusively for Dazed Digital, Shannon writes of the experience...

"I left Liverpool at 18 to move to London and study at Central Saint Martins. I didn’t know anyone in the city at all, which was really isolating. I feel like I did most of my growing up at the Charing Cross Road site between the BA and MA. I knew that art college was my way to London and CSM was the best so that’s where I wanted to go. I’m really happy I met the people I did through studying there, I’m not sure how else I would have made such brilliant friends over time. The college has always been about the people who are drawn to it and the work they produce.

We did the judging at the first show which, from what I could tell, was mostly full of excitable parents. All the press came to the later catwalk in the evening. The venue is great if a little warm and there’s an excitement around, tons of students trying to get views of the catwalk from every available window above. I would imagine that most parents have never been to a fashion show and are completely unjaded, you could see the bewilderment/joy on all their faces.

The panel was made up of myself, Fashion East's Lulu Kennedy, Kay Barron from Harpers, designer Corrie Nielsen and for some reason Colin Firth’s wife, as well as a few people from the college and L'Oréal. It was fun, I mean you have to brace yourself a bit as graduate shows are always excruciatingly long in comparison to fashion week shows. You have to slap yourself round the face a little halfway through – for me the only killers are any collection the models can’t walk in accompanied by a miserable, achingly slow soundtrack. That's no fun for anyone, nor dramatic enough to captivate.

You want to be completely open to what they're offering. It’s exciting to see sort-of rough work and how emotional it all is for them, you can feel it in the collections. I suppose I wanted something that was exciting and bold but not gimmicky or rehearsed – there were years when all the CSM shows had too many late 80s club references, thankfully that has moved on. Also these are only 41 of the 130 design students in the year, I'm sure personally there would have been a lot in the no pile that I would have been into.

I don’t have any connection to the new building apart from a few people like Professor Louise Wilson and her team. I still think it's a shame they had to move to Kings Cross and sell Charing Cross Road but the show was good, so maybe its better for the students to not have all those ghosts of old work surround them, they are finally liberated.

The first four out I thought were all incredible, felt really new for CSM and very well done: Erin Hawkes, Luke Stevens, Sarah Simkins and Alan Lee. I could have watched hours of work of that standard, it’s hard to say what it was but it all had a spark and a bravery and the make and fit was really considered. They could all get great jobs or do their own thing really well. Also Molly Goddard's knit dresses with tulle overlays were great, and Natalia Mencej's glittery Snoop boys and pugs. Isabella Newell was also a favourite of Lulu and Kay".

Text: Christopher Shannon