charles jeffrey finds a punky optimism to survive turbulent times
“Loverboy has always been about looking after those who are smaller than you.”
Photography David Jenewein
The invite for Charles Jeffrey’s spring/summer 20 show featured Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above The Sea Of Fog, that iconic, slightly cliched image, of a black clad man standing on a rocky precipice, looking out over the craggy, fog-filled landscape. Charles’ version came dyed in a glitching, soft neon, yellow. The painting has come to stand in for the Romantic spirit, this 19th century quest for knowledge, the desire to lose yourself in the sublimity of nature. It was about individualism and emotion and raw beauty over classical order.
All pretty apt for a Charles Jeffrey Loverboy collection. A 21st Century Romantic — a designer who has honoured London’s wild, clubkid, fashion legacy and remade it for a new generation. For spring/summer 20 Charles set his show in the British Library, among the stacks of books and old tomes. Not the most obvious setting. But “The library is the great equaliser,” Charles explained, post-show, “Anyone can come here and learn, be armed with knowledge.” There was something a little hopeful, a little punk, in the army of autodidacts Charles sent it down the runway.
It was a show about energy and rebellion, it was about fashioning a response to our challenging times and political turmoils. How do we navigate a world that feels on the brink of collapse? Charles found strength in its Loverboy community, his dramatic fashion archetypes, stomping through stormy times.
The show opened with Charles reading from Dylan Thomas’s poem In The Beginning before the soundtrack came crashing and erupting around us into snatched segments of squealing guitars — frantically switching between snatches of the Libertines, Bowie, The Clash, The White Stripes, The Ramones. “We’re being asked to deal with a lot of geopolitics on a daily basis, it causes a lot of tension and stress and I wanted the show to feel frenetic to reflect that. All this overpopulated music, cut and pasted, all these mad guitar riffs,” Charles explained. But this was Charles stripped back, all raw power. Shorn of the huge performance pieces of previous seasons this was focussed on the clothes — he had spent a lot of time developing the fabrics this season — and the garments were the stars, the focus, put right under the glare of the spotlight. “I wanted the garments to be visceral representations of societal trends,” Charles said.
It referenced the homogeneity of the civil service uniform, the detail of military garments — Charles’s dad was in the military and in the audience today, to see his first ever Loverboy show — but Charles ripped and shredded them, exploding them, finding freedom from their strictness in a show populated by the usual wild Loverboy archetypes. There were the freaks and geeks and goths and clubkids, but it was about a new chapter, Charles suggested, consolidating those Charles Jeffrey design signatures, building a business, working those price points.
But for all the business talk this was about the energy and anti-establishment DIY feeling of punk rock — the colour palette was inspired by early punk zines and punk record covers. And the communities that we build to help up navigate the world. “Loverboy has always been about looking after those who are smaller than you,” Charles said.