Charles Jeffrey was about to immerse himself in to a bath when we called him a few hours after his Fashion East S/S 2016 presentation – exhausted but content with the final result, which he had worked intensively on for the last couple of months. He staged the presentation as fragments of a nightclub, right in the middle of the ICA, with models, friends and dancers all dressed in the collection, dancing to classic house remixes while throwing glitter and flowers – uncannily similar to his parties at Dalston’s night club Vogue Fabrics. As such, his presentation became an autoportrait of sorts – a summing up, as well as a preview of a promising career to come.
Charles’ carnivalesque range of references are flighty but rich, echoing both ’80s club culture as well as fancy dress – yet, nothing feels forced and over-appropriated, rather, it’s fun, romantic and free. ”Nothing is really forced or reasserted when I design,” he tells me over the phone, explaining how he consciously avoids the heavy historical researched-based practice that dominates much contemporary fashion, where an era, look or feeling is studied to the point of numbness, only to be regurgitated on the catwalk. “I try more to react to things around me, and to be more organic in my process. I try not to make it look like something else than what it is.” In fact, recently his main inspiration was something as tedious as his budget – the severe financial constraints (spending rent-money on the production of the collection) resulted in a playful investigation into DIY procedures and ‘cheap’ materials, for example with colourful cheap paint-coated denim with the correction tape still attached – an expression and honesty of the process of making textiles.
For Charles, a large part of creative development comes from documenting and reflecting upon what he wears himself; a technique which he owes to his MA tutor Louise Wilson. “Louise taught me how to document myself, and why that’s important,” he explains.
Residing in the notorious nightclub venue Vogue Fabrics in Dalston, nightlife takes a central role in the execution and performance of the LOVERBOY universe. His collection celebrates the hedonistic and performative aspect of going out – the almost ceremonial aspect and incorporation of play in dressing yourself up before a night out. “Nightlife is a huge contributor to the realisation of our work,” he explains. “It’s a real stepping stone to exercise one’s creativity.” Often, the neon-illuminated and steaming hot dance floor of Vogue were where garments were first conceived, fitted and worn by his friends and crew – a scene uncannily similar to the Fashion East presentation. However, with LOVERBOY, performativity goes beyond garments – it’s refreshing to see a designer seriously committing to a post-gender / gender-fuck fashion in a time when concepts such as ‘gender-fluid’ and ‘unisex’ are used and appropriated so light-heartedly.
Charles recently collaborated with Savile Row fashion gallery Maison Mais Non after being approached whilst on his MA – a collaboration in which he had to work with and within British tailoring tradition. “It was interesting to see how a tailor thinks about the male body – and to challenge that. I think there is a natural elegance to slightly ill-fitted garments that are either too big or too small.” The result was a beautifully playful collection that negotiated both design traditions.
But with his own Fashion East presentation, Charles surely went all out in producing a collection that is particularly quintessential of his oeuvre – already widely praised, the next step will be the Paris fashion week showroom and hopefully establishing a business of LOVERBOY.
Words by Jeppe Ugelvig
Photography by Phillip Koll