british designer charles jeffrey's loverboy takes new york
London’s best young designer talks about his first trip to New York, where he created an installation for DSMNY, hosted a Loverboy party, and took a deep dive into NYC nightlife.
i-D spent one week in New York with London's favorite fashion designing Loverboy, Charles Jeffrey. On his first trip across the Atlantic to the Big Apple, Charles — plus his friends and collaborators Jack and Gareth — created an installation for Dover Street Market New York to house his collection. The trip also went undercover at New York Fashion Week, partied with the city's glam drag stars, hosted one of their iconic Loverboy parties at The Standard, and explored The Big Apple's biggest looks.
As we present the first episode of the documentary, Charles talks dressing up, going out, and taking NYC by storm.
So what was New York like? It was the first time you'd ever been, right?
It had been my dream to go since I was like 10! I'd never actually had the opportunity; I don't come from a family that could afford to go on a vacation like that. When I saw the skyline for the first time I cried! It was really magical.
Was it weird having a film crew follow around?
I know it sounds really weird, but it wasn't at all. So much stuff is happening with the brand right now that I've become a bit more used to it. But also, the people from i-D making the film were so cool, we ended up just having a laugh; the camera was just something that could capture that. It felt like it was meant to be.
Do you think the film captures what the trip was like for you?
Definitely! I was a bit worried that it might have been cheesy, because I'm quite a cheesy person. Or it could've ended up as a bit of a farce, or a comedy, but it actually turned out really beautifully. I had the best time there; the documentary shows that, I think.
The film starts with you prepping for the DSMNY installation. That must've been a great moment for you.
It was a really great validation of what we do, you know? Being stocked by DSM is one thing, but actually being invited to do something special like that, within the space there, and to be given that platform to do whatever the hell you want. I'm so grateful to the DSM people. I genuinely found them so inspiring. It just goes to show their is currency in being creative. I think that's really important thing for young designers or people who are still students to realize: that if you really believe in it, it can be possible. It's easy to feel hopeless, that there's no jobs out there in fashion, and it can be so hard to find validation for what you do. But if you believe in it, you can push it forward. I hope that's something people can take away from watching the film.
It's amazing how quickly the brand has come on in the space of three seasons.
It is. I mean, this is the first season we've ever actually sold from, as well.
Are you surprised by how much it's grown?
Yes and no. Yes, because it's happened to me first hand, that's exciting and shocking. But knowing the fashion system and how the fashion world operates, you're put on this fast track, and it's important to know how to ride that and to take every opportunity you can. Because before you know it, you can be just another designer. Not in a bad way, but there'll always be more young talents coming through, ready to shine. So I'm just trying to ride this wave as best I can right now.
Were the people in NYC aware of Loverboy and what you're doing?
In DSMNY everyone was really supportive, knew a lot about what we were doing, and were keen to meet us. And Scotty and Harry, the drag queens, we'd been in contact before. But there were a few people I met on the club scene there who were talking about how they were interested in Loverboy, and were into it. Ladyfag even said she liked what we were doing, and to have someone like Ladyfag say that was great. So it's starting to translate in New York a bit more now. The plan is really to be in both cities.
I always think of you as a very London designer, especially the nightlife influence on the brand. But the film really showed the influence of NYC as well.
Yeah, there's a definite link. Susanne Bartsch took a lot of inspiration from London and recreated it in NYC. Around the time she started, Studio 54 was dying down, and Suzanne brought that London energy of people like Leigh Bowery across the Atlantic. It's like taking an apple seed from London and growing this amazing, totally different, apple tree in New York. It's a massive part of their culture, especially the young kids and young designers who are coming up now, who are breaking the mold right now. Their influences come from nightlife, they learned their craft there. I was speaking to Victor Barragan about how going out at night is a really great way of trying out ideas. If you want to test a really eccentric design, it's probably the best place to do it. Fashion and nightlife are so entwined in our culture. If the nightlife is big, the fashion will be big.
Did you leave feeling creatively inspired?
In a very broad way. The biggest thing I took away was the idea of total fantasy, people completely living out their lives through dressing up — how it's something that can give you energy, something can help you get through and survive in this horrific world. Full fantasy, escapism to the max, I find it so intoxicating to think about. That's something we want to push forward.
What was the Loverboy party you hosted like?
It was a great platform to start the night off in New York. I'm very grateful for the Standard for that. The nights at Vogue Fabrics are obviously their thing, but the Standard, I mean we tried to fuck it up a little bit — it's another type of fantasy you know, pretending to exist in that world. What was cool about these New York club kids was the way they wear these incredible looks, but exist in these very slick spaces. That's a nice dichotomy, I think.
What was your favorite memory of the whole trip?
Oh god! So many! But I think maybe Battle Hymn, Ladyfag's night. It was right at the end of the trip, getting ready at Sussi's house with all of his friends, that experience, getting ready, going to that space. Battle Hymn is, well, like an actual warzone, like going into battle. Everyone in a look in one pit of house and techno, dancing to that New York sound. We were up in the balcony with Ladyfag, watching, it was like this weird soup of extroverts.
And, if it's possible to reduce to just one, who was the most amazing person you met?
You can't go wrong with Scotty and Harry, they are like one person. They were so inspiring, the way they talk about what they do, they really helped to change my perspective.
Text Felix Petty