Shaun Samson Almost Shatters the Glass at London's Royal Opera House29/02/2012
Calligraphic Gothic lettering, shaved faux fur, oversize Tees, Timberland boots, Masta Ace soundtrack - after just one season, Shaun Samson gives menswear a massive Latino punch. Mandi Lennard caught up with him after his Fall/Winter 2012/13 show as part of MAN at London Fashion Week.
Mandi Lennard: What are the references and materials for this collection? Can you talk me through the furry appliqué?
Shaun Samson: I wanted to continue that Latino street vibe of my last collection, and explore new fabrics. People know me by my felting technique, so I wanted to slowly transition from that process to something just as interesting. I decided to research faux fur because it's something that I usually shy away from. Once I started, I couldn't stop. I've become obsessed with it and seek it everywhere I go - from fur coats other people are wearing, to plush toys. I never realised how many different types and textures of faux fur there is out there. Once I familiarised myself with this new fabrication, I thought about how the 'Shaun Samson' boy would wear it in his world. My guy this season is very into sports jerseys and layering; a thug on the street looking fly. Sports mesh was the base to a lot of the faux fur. I worked with illustrator Joshua Gurrie who did an amazing job taking my urban Latino reference points and interpreting them into graphics and illustrations that I then appliquéd onto the mesh. The effect is really strong and playful, and it was interesting to see how the different furs reacted to the appliqué process. I liked how the fur obscured the sharp lines of the graphics. I enjoyed working with the long hair furs the best.
ML: It's very different to your graduate collection; what's the Shaun Samson signature that prevails in any collection you do?
SS: It's definitely in the attitude.
ML: You've got a strong team around you; is this a crew that's come together organically?
SS: Yes, it feels like that. I've known both Rob and Matthew from when I started at Central St Martins back in 2005. Rob has been a best mate for years, and we have been working on projects together since uni. Matthew has been there from the beginning of my label, and has been a great source of direction and inspiration. It's an honour to work with such focused and successful individuals, and also very beneficial that we all share similar stylistic views. I trust them completely; it's really important to have that in a team.
ML: So who are your key henchmen?
SS: Matthew Josephs is my head stylist. There's a lot of chaos going on in my head, and he helps to focus everything into a clear and believable vision. Eddy Martin casted the show and did an amazing job finding boys that really embodied the spirit of the collection. Rob Meyers is my Art Director and he overseas everything including the look book which we shot right after the show.
ML: What's the deal with Timberland?
SS: Matthew approached Timberland because we both agreed that their boots best complimented the collection. Timberland were really excited that I wanted to do something with them this season, and offered to sponsor all the boots via the Design Your Own function on their website. That evening we went online and viewed the colour/findings options, and pretty much designed the shoe right there. A couple weeks later they were delivered to the studio exactly as we wanted them and they fit into the collection perfectly. The best part is that this function is available to anyone.
ML: THAT soundtrack. What made you choose Masta Ace's 'Born To Roll'?
SS: It has a sick bassline. Really dirty, raw, and edgy. I had different people working on making it show-ready by layering different tracks with it. In the end we left it as is and simply added a siren at the beginning. The music was a good reflection of the show in that I wasn't trying to modernise or parody the urban street scene I was referencing with the collection. It can stand on its own with its own merit.
ML: It seems to be happening very fast for you, does it feel like that?
SS: I think this industry is super fast-paced for everyone. There's always so much to do, and not enough time to do it all.
ML: As you know, I'm on the panel at ITS, and you won last year's ITS#10 - how was that experience?
SS: I still can't believe I won ITS#10. Just to even be a finalist that year was enough for me. To be honest, I really didn't think I was going to be awarded anything, so I just tried to make the most of being in Italy and wanted to enjoy the experience as much as I could. Not thinking I'd win anything actually helped with my nerves on the night of the competition. When they announced that I'd won, it was a complete shock. I haven't won anything before, and for ITS to be the first thing for me to win, is pretty wild. To meet the other contestants under such nerve-racking circumstances, creates a special kind of friendship. Overall, I'm sure all the contestants cherish the experience and I'm stoked that I get to return this year as a judge.
ML: And shortly after, you jumped straight into Fashion East, showing in their MAN group show, and again, last week during the menswear day; what's it like being in a group show, did you argue about which designer should come out first?!
SS: MAN is an awesome initiative to be a part of. The press and attention that the show receives is something that designers work years to try to achieve. Showing alongside other designers helps to take some of the pressure away, which definitely helps the stress levels lower just slightly. We don't really know the running order of the show until they line us up backstage, so there's no arguing about that. We're all so busy anyway, running order is probably the last of our worries.
ML: And Rob designed the MAN invite, right?
SS: I was asked to design the invite, and Rob commissioned Josh Gurrie to do some illustrations especially for it. I was already working with Josh on some graphics for the collection. We liked Josh's freehand illustrations and decided on a crest motif. There are 3 designers showing at MAN so we thought the blank crest represented the mark that we were all going to individually make at the show. There's also a family connotation with a crest symbol (Fashion East family) and also a feeling of importance and officiality, which I thought was fitting for MAN, especially with how popular the show is. I'm a fan of fucked up, chicken-scratch handwriting, so when Josh sent the illustrations for the back of the invite with the designer names and show details, that immediately became my favourite part of the invite. We felt the spirit of MAN is fresh and raw, so we wanted the mood of the invite to feel the same way. We decided to make a silver foiled A3 poster. We wanted the invite to be something that you would want to keep after the show - mine's already framed on the wall in my studio.
ML: It certainly had that effect; I wanted to put it on the wall right away. Was there any special set or backdrop to the show?
SS: MAN showed at the Royal Opera House this season, with an amazing lighting set-up courtesy of Topman. I'm sure the only time the Royal Opera House blasts gangster rap is when I show at MAN. The glass atrium rattled with the bass of the music, so the whole experience of the show was even more intensified. Part of the process of choosing show music, is which track has the most bass. I secretly wanted my music to be so intense that it shattered the glass in the atrium of the Royal Opera House.
ML: Who was your tutor at Central Saint Martin's and how did you find the experience there?
SS: My tutor was Professor Louise Wilson, and the whole MA Fashion course experience kicked my ass. I think I needed it before I headed out in the world. The intensity of the program humbled me and gave me insight on how fucking hard you have to work to survive in this industry.
ML: No-one is ever going to tell you how it really is, more than Louise. On another note, I read that one of the languages you speak is Tagalog.
SS: Tagalog is the language spoken in the Philippines. My Nationality is American, and ethnically I'm Filipino. My grandparents lived in my house when I was growing up in California, and they spoke mainly Tagalog so that's how I can understand it.
ML: What's next for Shaun Samson?
SS: I'd like to do more collaborations. I want to keep my label on the more exclusive cult side. I think the Shaun Samson guy is a bit of a misfit, and doesn't want to be part of any scene unless it's the gang he's affiliated with.
ML: Any secret projects in the pipeline you can give us a cryptic clue about?
SS: I'm about to start working on a project with a Swiss-based brand.
ML: What brought you to London?
SS: I came to London for Central Saint Martins. I decided to stay because it's a rad city, and because there are opportunities here that no other city offers.
ML: What do you love about London?
SS: It's small enough literally that you can bike from one part of town to another fairly easily, and big enough figuratively, that it's hugely influential in the world culturally, politically, artistically... the list goes on.
ML: What do you hate about London?
SS: That you are charged for everything. I'm sure one day there'll be a 'Breathing Charge', where we have to pay for some kind of air filtration system that keeps the air in London breathable.
ML: Why's that Supreme ball cap always clamped to your head?
SS: You caught me! I have no time to get my hair cut; I'm working day and night, running around town, trying to manage a studio team. I can't justify indulging in a hair appointment for an hour when I have so many people dependent on me to make things run, so I whack a hat on my head and go on with my day. I'm just starting to realise that people might think I'm making some fashion statement with it, which I'm not.
ML: I know that feeling and have quite a collection myself for that very purpose. What's the deadline for my personal order? I want it all!