A cheerful orgy of Hogarth paintings, secret gardens, and the horny air of a club’s smoking area summarises Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY’s spring/summer 2018 show. It was Jeffrey’s first standalone show and took place yesterday at 180 The Strand. The new official London Fashion Week venue was a pleasure to visit. There is space, unlike the chaos that was Brewer Street Car Park, but also a sleek ambience.
The spacious venue was the perfect backdrop to the colourful joy of LOVERBOY. The collection was about “lovingly piecing together ways of reality, with clothes made of dreams”. In a dream, clothes have no limit. Their proportions, silhouettes, colour and pattern combinations are endless. In dreams, it’s also possible to redefine connotations, which Jeffrey did with, for example, pin stripes. The typically stiff and serious fabric was injected with queer energy and given a sexier silhouette. Jeffrey knows reality is tough, but he appreciates it, and knows how to cope. He knows how to make reality beautiful.
It’s about looking at what we have, then figuring out what’s good about it, then making it better. To illustrate this, see how makeup looks were created with regular felt tip pens.
A t-shirt spelling out “Children High on Drink and Drugs” was a comical comment on reality, but there was more on offer than print t-shirts. An excellent leather coat in egg yolk-yellow stood out, along with the pin stripe suit matched with a hoodie. This look came with a mention-worthy accessory: a pear struck by arrows, a hint to the tale of Wilhelm Tell? The finale dress was a grand confection of white puffer sleeves and appliqué in the colour scheme of a Mirò painting. The lobster was a reference to Schiaparelli, a possible source of inspiration for Jeffrey in terms of designing outside the box.
A designer who is breaking norms is no longer satisfied with crossfading masculine and feminine. As he said in his notes, this collection is “queer hedonism”.
It was also a reminder: don’t forget to live. No, I’m not referring to a feeling of constant, natural high, because that’s not real. I’m referring instead to smelling the roses, tasting the sweat, wiping the tears and flowing with swinging melody of reality. Something the audience did the moment George Michael’s Freedom played towards the end of the show. Symbolic? Absolutely.
“This is the pulsating Portrait of a Loverboy”, “a Ditchley portrait through the lens of LaChapelle”, a world where “Fulham rugby boys and towering Hussar soldiers get it off.” This was an hommage to the “caked-up, coked-up bright young things” out there, living in this world, feeling most alive, or at least trying.
This might sound carried away, but the world is absurd, and so, are our fantasies really as far away as we think? As a good fashion designer should, Jeffrey has already seen the future. His message for us is: “space was a nice place to visit, but we’re crashing back down to earth.”
Let’s not be coy, Jeffrey’s creativity can be likened to that of John Galliano. Minus the antisemitic slander, plus the queerness. This is about creating – drama and a look to go with it. Garments rather than clothes, a mask rather than makeup, a headpiece rather than a haircut.
LOVERBOY offers more than merely appropriated relics of subculture, which is what many designers end up doing. This is the actual culture of modern day London in which Charles Jeffrey shapes his design. LOVERBOY is the product of culture – yes, a label, but also a wonderful little world.
Text: Filippa Engvall