Charles Jeffrey: Love to Love You, Baby
What started as a birthday party organised last summer by Charles Jeffrey, then about to go into his final year of MA Fashion, Loverboy has now branched out into a monthly club night on Sunday evenings at the George & Dragon as well as a Fashion East presentation at the ICA in June. The lovechild of Jeffrey and his many muses, friends and collaborators has grown up quite a bit since the original one-off night – praised by many as the new place to go out, dress up, dance and meet people you probably wouldn’t in a different state, it’s hard to ignore Loverboy and the repeatedly asked question “You goin’ Loverboy?” in the week leading up to the party.
“I love to see that, says Jeffrey excitedly. “It isn’t all about me, it’s about everyone else. I want it to be a kind of spotlight on people. So it’s like, this month, I really want to show off these people because I think they deserve a spotlight – whether it’s their work or how they dress. It’s kind of like a really open collective.”
The ‘Downtown 500’, the small group of SoHo creatives who energised early 1980s New York culture, has been a big influence. “They were artists and musicians, and they were all meeting, bouncing off each other and there were clubs that that allowed them to get together,” explains Jeffrey. “The reason why it was so good is because it was constantly recorded – people were photographed, people were filmed – and people were pinning themselves down with work. I’m starting to get the feeling that that’s happening again. People want to pin themselves down; they want to show off what they’re doing.”
“MAYBE IT’LL EVOLVE OR CHANGE, BUT IT WILL STILL BE REALLY FLUID AND CENTRED AROUND OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK ALONGSIDE MINE. I’D LOVE FOR IT TO BE LIKE A BABY ALONGSIDE SOMETHING ELSE I DO, ALMOST LIKE THE MIU MIU TO MY PRADA, YOU KNOW?”
Photography by Will Scarborough
Every Loverboy party is announced with a campaign, shot by one of the likes of fashion and fine art students, set designers, DJs and photographers, with Charles as the Warhol-like figure bringing everyone together. The polaroids taken during the night, the video collaborations that keep on coming – all this imagery is in Charles’ words “a way for people to kind of be voyeured and to start dressing up”. He’s very aware of the power of the image and the huge part these images play in Loverboy’s growing momentum.
As one member of the lucky Fashion East trio, Charles staged a Loverboy night, albeit at midday, at the ICA as a way of presenting his SS ’16 collection. It was a continuation of both that voyeurism and that spotlight on the young and talented he’s brought together: “I thought about having a party that’s being viewed, and it’s people just getting really fucked up, and people watching it. It’s the idea of people going to a party: of people going to see people. That’s where the clothes exist.”
Self-promotion and bringing people together has always come naturally to Charles, though he didn’t realise that could be part of his work – and in turn influence his design – until halfway through his MA. In first year, the late Professor Louise Wilson told him to get off social media and start spending more time in the library. “At the time she was challenging me to focus and follow the method that she had pushed for lots of people: you do your drawing and your research and you get your culture from these sources, ’cause everybody else knows about this and you’d be stupid not to. Fabio [Piras]still expects that level of work, but I think the penny dropped with him when he started to see the commitment I had to Loverboy and the artwork, and that way of promoting myself. I didn’t really know it was making any sense until I started to have a dialogue about it, and then I realised that naturally this is what I like to do. The way that Fabio’s accepted it – that this is how I get my work done, this is the universe I’m creating – I think Louise would’ve accepted, too.”
How would he like to see Loverboy grow from here?
“Maybe it’ll evolve or change, but it will still be really fluid and centred around other people’s work alongside mine. I’d love for it to be like a baby alongside something else I do, almost like the Miu Miu to my Prada, you know? I’d like to have Charles Jeffrey, which is a line that is a bit more serious and fashion-related, and Loverboy as the child that I nurture. It’s young, it’s T-shirts, a club night, a gallery space maybe, a collective of people, a place where people can show off themselves, their work, their music. I want it to be a hub for people. And then there are things that Fabio was saying just before the collection was launching, which is that Loverboy could just be something like Bless, where you just make a really random thing like a weird sleeve that you don’t necessarily wear but that you just own, like an object. It could be a candle that I’ve pissed on or something, you know? Or a panel of electro tape that’s an art piece. Fucking around with it, but then contextualising it. Then it justifies everything and lifts the brand value.”
“IT ISN’T ALL ABOUT ME, IT’S ABOUT EVERYONE ELSE. I WANT IT TO BE A KIND OF SPOTLIGHT ON PEOPLE.”
The reality of being a young designer however, as well as starting your own label fresh out of school, has not been easy. Charles is £40,000 in debt. When Anna Wintour and Suzy Menkes came to do a talk at CSM just before his final year of MA, he asked for their advice on his situation: Anna instantly told him to get a job, but Suzy turned around and said, “I would still like to think there are other creative ways to make things happen.” Loverboy might be just that; both his MA and Fashion East collections were partly funded with money raised on Friday nights at Vogue Fabrics. Does it scare him though, taking the risk of starting his own brand while owing that much money?
“To be honest with you, what else can I do? If I think about it too much, it can scare the shit out of me, but when I’m in that mode I don’t do anything at all. I feel that the best way is not to ignore it, because I can’t and I have to face stuff, but it’s almost like… Fuck it. What have I got to lose? I’ve always wanted to do it. Maybe it’s an arrogant thing, but who else is gonna do it?”
Words by Julia van IJken