While the habitués of Charles Jeffrey’s club night, Loverboy, twirled away onstage at his Fashion East presentation yesterday, I managed to find a quiet corner with the designer to discuss how fashion and nightlife coexist in his world.
CC: So tell me about Loverboy…
CJ: The club started as my birthday party last year, and it was just a really fun way for me to play. But then it turned into a way to fund my Masters [Charles has an MA in Menswear from St. Martins] the money that was coming in through the door was actually paying for my rent and my fabrics. I nearly dropped out of the Masters because of the money. For me it was a project that allowed me to be super free, creatively I was working with a lot of my friends who came to the night and we were shooting campaigns for the night as promotional material. We were working with each other, this group of people, and it solidified our existence at this time, we were recording ourselves, showing ourselves off in moments.
CC: What gave you the idea of bringing these two aspects of your life together for Fashion East?
CJ: With this project I really wanted to bring the club night together, along with the clothing that I had done on my Masters.
CC: So the people on the stage, are they people who would normally come to Loverboy?
CJ: Yes, all of them are people who have been going to the club for the past 10 months. A lot of them are my friends as well; I just kind of owed it to them, putting them on a pedestal, a three-foot pedestal, to showcase them and the work I wanted to propose as well. So that was the concept, for me. Seeing it together for the first time is almost like a kind of cathartic process, because just imagining it in my head was… “How is this going to come together?” Walking around the room today, and seeing everything is weird, it’s amazing.
CC: In terms of the clothes, there’s a lot of paint splattered materials, almost like artist’s canvases, how did that come about?
CJ: I’ve been doing a lot of illustration and printmaking. Before, with my BA, I wish I’d done fashion print really, the course I took was more marketing based, so when I was doing my MA I found myself making a lot of textiles and printing, things like that. Working in this way was like showcasing this energy, this sort of nonchalance to wearing clothes, that sort of colour, immediacy, all of these elements were things that I wanted to showcase.
CC: As part of the presentation you have people stepping out of the crowd and being still, kind of creating a freeze frame… What is the intention there?
CJ: It was a tactical move to separate the clothing from the dancers, to present a curated form of fashion as well as an amalgamation of what I’m about. Otherwise there would be no proposal for a product. As much as that pains me, within the industry, you always have to have some kind of proposal for menswear, and I do have a proposal of how I want things to be. But we’ve also dissipated that slightly, by having the art denim pieces worn on the dancers too. Alongside my fittings from the show, I had all the dancers come in for fittings too and I had to approve all of their looks before they came on the stage.
CC: So some people are wearing their own clothes? Does that worry you at all as a designer? It’s a bit of a loss of control; it’s not your whole vision…
CJ: Essentially, what I wanted to communicate was a whole universe within this project and this presentation. So, to do that I had to have these characters being part of the clothing presentation as well, ‘cos a lot of the projects that we’re doing now, it’s this idea about putting each individual person onto a pedestal. I think for future projects I really want to start looking at each individual person as references, we’re doing a lot of photography in the club, just people being in that space. There are people with such amazing ways of wearing things, people that I will be looking at for future, showing people that universe as much as my own design process.
CC: It’s been quite a while since there’s been a club/fashion thing that’s been so merged; they have existed quite separately recently…
CJ: Yeah, yeah. When I first moved to London I just caught the tail end of clubs like Ponystep. I never got the chance to go to Boombox but I used to look at that on MySpace as a kid up in Scotland and be really like “I want to go down there!” And being there in London when I was so young, I remember getting goose bumps, seeing the queue of these amazing looking people at Hoxton Bar & Grill. And then there was a period of time when it was completely lost and nothing was going on, and everyone was wearing streetwear and had long hair, and it was “what the hell’s going on”? So, with this, at least there’s the idea of just being theatrical, and just showing yourself off to be seen.
CC: Who’s DJ-ing? The music’s great!
CJ: His name is Salvador, Sega Bodega. I’ve known him since he was 16, so it makes perfect sense that we’re working together now. And his girlfriend’s on the stage, she’s one of the models, so it’s less industry-looking.
CC: It feels quite fun, and light-hearted, a lot of the shows have had really heavy music, lots of dark hip hop
CJ: We collaborated, his sets usually are quite dark, so I sent him quite a lot of the songs that I would play, and we worked on that together. We’ve had all of the 10 playlists from the last 10 months of Loverboy. It needs that lightness, it’s still quite early in the morning after all, we started quite dark but it’s going to build into something. By the time it’s half an hour before it finishes we’re going to ask for a swagger, we’re going to ask for the models to get involved, and for it to be this kind of end of night experience. I might even get on the stage!
In the best tradition of LC:M, the fourth and final day exemplified the diversity of London’s showcase of menswear talent, from the Paul Smith event held on Savile Row to the hedonistic, polysexual world of Charles Jeffrey at Fashion East’s takeover of the ICA.
The day started with the reliably high taste values of E.Tautz. The collection this time was partially concerned with the concept of leisure time and the emergence of specific clothing to enjoy one’s leisure time in post War Britain. Patrick’s inspirations can often be read as being quite sombre, but the results are always extremely elegant, and, increasingly, particularly for summer, casual. Graphic print T-shirts, wide-legged raw denims and neat shorts had the easy-going grace of last summer’s British seaside-influenced collection with a more varied, modernistic appeal.
After putting his lightweight A Suit To Travel In last season to the test with the help of a troupe of super-agile acrobats, Paul Smith presented a sequel in the form of two stunt cyclists who performed a series of jaw-dropping feats on two wheels (and sometimes on just one) while wearing summer variations of the suit, thus amply demonstrating it’s ability to withstand the trials of travel and physical exertion. Ever the exemplary host, Sir Paul, equally, left his audience with no doubts as to his prowess as a salesman and designer.
Fashion East – Charles Jeffrey
There could be no greater contrast than leaving the Paul Smith event on Savile Row and entering Charles Jeffrey’s presentation downstairs at the ICA for Fashion East. Charles had stated that he wanted to bring the world of the club night he runs, Loverboy, into the arena of the fashion presentation, and stepping into the darkened space I had the same sense of having stumbled into something by accident as I had at Meadham Kirchhoff’s now legendary ‘squat’ presentation several seasons ago: part voyeurism, part urge to join the party.
On a three-foot platform, the euphoric dancers twirled, sashayed and postured to the sounds of the live DJ, Sega Bodega. So what of the clothes? While elaborately paint-splattered jeans were as free spirited as the occasion, there was also an unexpected reverence for the sartorial, with Savile Row-produced boating blazers, ‘school boy’ shorts and an electric blue cashmere overcoat demonstrating Charles’s love of the peacock aspects of the British tradition.
It’s been a while since fashion and club culture have been presented in such proximity, but by providing a platform for the beguiling night creatures of his universe to exhibit themselves, Charles is part of a tradition from the recent past (Boombox, Ponystep) to the more distant and classic (Kashpoint, Smashing, Taboo, The Batcave, The Blitz), while creating an unforgettable way to showcase his work as a designer. A passing Princess Julia introduced us and I was lucky enough to sit down and have a chat with Charles while the party raged on, read that here, or press on to more highlights from Day 4.
Fashion East – Wales Bonner
Some have described Wales Bonner’s presentation at The ICA for Fashion East as being the ‘Heaven’ to Charles Jeffrey’s bacchanalian ‘Hell’ at ground level. Recent graduate Wales Bonner has earned a reputation not only for producing beautiful clothes but also for fulfilling a very exacting vision of how they should be presented, with the attention to detail of an auteur film director.
Like Charles Jeffrey, there was a whole world here, but nothing could be more distinct from the discotheque atmosphere on the ground floor than the atmosphere recreated of a languid afternoon in the cool interior of an Indian palace, complete with bucolic indoor lily pond, exquisite antique Indian furniture and the delicate fragrance of incense. Inspired by the journey of Malik Ambar from destitution in East Africa to the life of a royal ruler in West India, the story presented was of transformation and diasporic experience.
Since her initial presentation, Ebonics, held in January at Fashion East, Wales Bonner has become known for presentations resonant with the dialogue around representations of the black male. Given the Indian setting, cottons, silks and linens felt like natural choices. Nehru collars, pleated shorts and wide-legged trousers gave a sense of time and place, like looking at vintage photographs, these languid items were offset with Wales Bonner’s signature effeminate flourishes from silk scarves to diamante, cowrie shells and embroidery, but there was also visual discordance provided by the high-waisted jeans, snug vests and fitted T-shirts.
Wales Bonner has achieved a great deal in very little time and the visions she creates leave you reeling with a sense of beauty.
Tourne de Transmission
My last glimpse of London Collections: Men, SS16 was at Graeme Gaughan’s brand Tourne de Transmission’s presentation at St. George’s Church, a little way down the road from the main LC:M venue. Inspired by Colombia’s Kogi tribe, the collection, which here benefited from the Buffalo styling touch of Barry Kamen, featured soft, easy-going layers in crisp creams and black. Styled up with Kamen’s original collection of hats, the pieces had an organic feel, and the clean palette lent itself to easy combination and relaxed summertime dressing.
This morning, James Long presented his collection for next spring/summer in London Collections: Men’s most capacious venues, The Old Sorting Office. The show notes talked about James finding inspiration in people who seem “natural” in their clothing, free spirits for whom blending in is rarely an option. Moments after the boys trooped backstage in their bohemian layers, I grabbed a few minutes with James to discuss his inspirations further.
What were your inspirations for this collection?
JL: It was very much about Brighton and the pavilion, originally owned by the Prince Regent, which was squatted for ten years, so it was all about that decadence. The original interior designers had an idea of India, an idea of China, it wasn’t real, they hadn’t been to these places so it was kind of an imaginary idea of what those places were. All of the references were chopped up, confused they weren’t accurate or correct, there was kind illusion mixed in and I loved that idea. So, the knits were based on the wallpaper with the illusion and then that led to the languid feel, with robes and a little bit of tailoring but in a ruined, distressed, dressed down way.
When was it squatted?
JL: 80’s-90’s, it’s the only palace that isn’t owned by the Queen, because Queen Victoria didn’t want anything to do with it because the Prince Regent was so decadent and spent so much money there. I love that idea of all the craziness within the rooms. Then there was another idea of people feeling like they’re blending in but they’re really not, that’s something that I want to celebrate in fashion, not feeling like you have to blend in at all. I think you can wear these pieces very simply with a lack of self-consciousness and those are the people who really inspire me, who really have true style. Out of the capitals now, the capital is so saturated with photography on style, to go to somewhere like Brighton, it’s just completely free, and I got excited again by how people were putting clothes together and so I wanted to relay that within my collection.
Were you inspired at all by the squatters themselves?
JL: It wasn’t the squatters, it was more that that was the era when I was going out, sort of walking along the beach after going to a club, I remember putting on a robe on top of an outfit, its that feeling of thinking your blending in but you’re not at all but it has some form of true style for me, its not conscious in a way. It wasn’t the squatters, it was just the idea of this building that was run down, that was fully decadent, that had bankrupted the royals, all of the patchworks of the ruins came from that idea but giving it my kind of feeling.
Are there any pieces or techniques that stand out for you?
JL: I love the woven fabric, I felt that we put all of the drawings that James Davison’s did for me that were very free as well and we put all of those colours into the weave, and we put the gold in and I felt that I picked everything out into the palette and wove it into the fabric, I wanted it to flow through the whole collection. And the paisley, Chinese, baroque I wanted people to not know what that was really, not to patronise but I didn’t want it to be immediately identifiable because that was about the imaginary idea of how China was or how India was, so it was me allowing myself to be free.
You always have such a colourful front row; to what extent do your friends influence what you do?
JL: They’re kind of my witches! They’re my people, they’re the ones who are trying to blend in but doing really badly!
James Long brought charm to London Collections: Men on a gloomy Sunday morning, featuring his signature bohemian knitwear and denim and, in this instance, bespoke fabrics featuring hand drawings by James Davison. Inspired by the carefree spirit of “people who think they are blending in, but they’re totally not,” I caught up with the man himself to talk about this intriguing concept, and others, moments after the show finished. Read my Q&A with James here, or read on for more highlights from Day 3.
Baartmans & Siegel
Baartmans and Siegel have an unfailing instinct for pre-empting what men want to wear, and have also become experts at the presentation format honed over seasons at London Collections: Men. Today’s presentation took a Western theme, and while the models backstage were urged to “be the bad ass cowboys”, amidst the neon cacti and motel signs, this one was seriously urbane set of cowboys. There was denim, for sure, albeit white denim, artfully shredded in places, but there was also some seriously covetable joggers, in gorgeous flecked grey fabrics, one featuring a button detail at the hem, and it is this very kind of attention to detail that makes Baartmans pieces such a joy to wear.
Belstaff never shy away from creating a fully-fledged arena in which to present their collections. After last season’s formica biker caff, for SS16 the premium outerwear brand created a full-scale Desert Storm army camp, complete with real sand dunes in which to showcase their wares. Patinated leathers and upscale versions of utilitarian wear evoked a sense of clothing with purpose, of items cherished for their usefulness. Despite the air of heritage, of course there is a lot of design going on, the standout item for me being the slim-fitting cargo pants in pale shades of sand.
Taking inspiration from Las Posas, the folly created deep in the Mexican jungle by English poet and Surrealist, Edward James, the Richard James SS16 collection was full of the vivid colour that such an exotic inspiration suggests. To take one look apart in full from the collection, I’m very taken by the petrol blue and the late 60’s vibe of this shirt/jacket, the sheer luxury of the pale shorts beneath and the touch of exoticism in the embroidered raffia mules. Sometimes a summer collection takes you on a journey, and given the gloomy skies in London currently, this look from Richard James takes me where I want to go.
Yesterday, Lou Dalton presented her latest collection for London Collections: Men. Moments after the models had filed back into the changing room, to the sounds of Joe Smooth’s classic House anthem Promised Land, an emotional and exhausted Lou talked us through the origins of this collection, from the significance of the musical soundtrack to her own recollections of the era that inspired it.
How aware were you of other designers who have used this period of Britain’s dance music history as a source of inspiration?
LD: I am aware of other designers, who have used a similar aesthetic, and how each of us approaches it, but I have a certain handwriting; construction is one of my strengths, detail and utilitarian are things I try to hone in on every season. This is a time I lived through, I remember it really well, the guys I used to come across were really sexy, I didn’t want it to come across as too “scally”. That guy has grown up now, he’s like me, he’s 40, I wanted to make beautiful clothes that had a history, that remind you of a certain time but not in a nostalgic kind of way.
What did the research involve?
LD: I was watching a repeat of a Joy Division documentary on BBC4, when I was working late, and I realised, I remembered the Hacienda and going up there for the last night in ’92, when it was all starting to fall apart. Also, I grew up listening to Bund by Happy Mondays and Wrote For Luck is an anthem in my archive of music, it says so much: “I order a line, you form a queue” and all that. It was really hard to listen to that album at that time, when you think about what those boys stood for… it’s different now. If I was just to emulate that, it wouldn’t be exciting or true to Lou Dalton. I don’t want to do comedy, I want to do something that has a heart and feels personal to me.
What was the trigger for this inspiration, was it emotional?
LD: Yes, it was, it was emotional. Over the last season I instantly wanted to do something incredibly light so when I started doing the research I started working with a mill that we hadn’t used before and they do an awful lot of technical fabrics, really lightweight. Once again, Cerruti have sponsored us, and one of the fabrics for them was a silk/cotton mix incredibly light, almost parachute light. Last season was a bit heavy, lots of zips and details and I wanted to really strip it back but hone in again on what I feel is my strength: utilitarian, traditional sportswear but make it more contemporary. In a way t was always there, and there’s always a narrative with Lou, but I’ve not really honed into the fact of when I felt the most content in my life and I made the decision to go back into education and was introduced to a scene that was so far removed from what I was used to at the time… a West Midlands girl living in Shropshire… It felt so right but I didn’t want it to be stupid, I wanted it to feel relevant and to take you guys on a journey, not in a nostalgic kind of way but moving forward with it, through wearable clothes, the print and the tones, creating clothes you boys would want to wear.
The orange and the blue, any particular reason for those colours?
LD: When I started doing the research, obviously I go to all the trade shows… I love navy and with the utilitarian tone of what we do, the burnt orange comes through in industrial colour tones and so forth, it just felt right. I found this really beautiful photograph of a housing estate, the old breezeblocks and just the backdrop of the sky, it was the most amazing sky blue and there was amazing burnt orange in there and I thought “this would be amazing,” and then I started to pull the palette together from that.
If you break the collection down you’ll see blocks in there, it’s a continuous thread running through it, and if you think about last season with the zipped jackets, two in one, its very much based on that Harrington style and hopefully creating a modern man’s wardrobe.
The second day of LCM got off to a poignant start with Lou Dalton’s homage to the hedonism and freedom of her own musically-enhanced youth. However, with typically incisive vision, rather than recreating the styles of the late 80s, and early 90s, Lou brought things bang up to date with a completely current spin on utilitarian clothing featuring the lightest of tech fabrics (at times transparent), warped checks and vivid orange and blues. Backstage, an exhausted and emotional Lou talked us through the process and inspiration for this light-hearted collection (read my Q&A with her here).
Astrid Andersen has become known for a very specific look and a very specific demographic, but beside the uncompromising stance of her streetwear-focused brand exists some extraordinary explorations of colour, form and symbols, from Japanese sumo to, in this instance, China and it’s unique position as a cultural cross-roads between past and future. While sportswear shapes and sheer fabrics that play with traditional expectations of masculinity are familiar Astrid motifs, there was a depth to the fabric experiments here, most notably in the heat transfer prints echoing the shimmer and embroidery of traditional Oriental flower patterns.
British designer Stuart Vevers transformation of the American luxury brand Coach, is drawing a lot of attention in the fashion industry currently, particularly after last season, when plush shearling outerwear had many a fashion editor gushing with praise and lining up to make pre-orders. A mixture of fashionable celebrities and social media potentates attended today’s presentation, demonstrating its current appeal. Practical, outdoorsy shapes in vivid, psychedelic, all-over prints, grounded with solid blacks and khaki were styled with some seriously covetable furry sliders, printed pumps and trippy coloured shades. Vevers is taking the brand on a very unexpected but irresistibly journey here.
Agi and Sam
Propelled into instant stardom before they really had time to assess what all the fuss was about them themselves, Agi and Sam’s journey through London’s recent love affair with menswear, has been a unique one. Hitting the zeitgeist of all-over print with full force, the design duo has subsequently experimented with scale, proportion and form, with print being used with a deliberate and sparing precision. Today’s collection had some familiar elements like the interest in playful, unexpected shapes and oversized proportions, but also reintroduced large-scale print in the form of broad stripes with the imprecision of hand-painted lines.
Ever the endearing anarchist, Matthew Miller opened his show with a conventional suit, which given his reputation for subversion, sent out a ripple of unsettled apprehension through the crowd. A couple of looks in, a vivid red slash on the back of an otherwise fairly conventional white business shirt confirmed there was clearly method in Matthew’s madness, and demonstrated that his approach this time would be of disruption through stealth. As less familiar forms and materials emerged, the collection continued to feed on the dramatic tension between the restraint of a neutral palette and the uniforms of business life with textural disruptions, most notably in the form of crumpled fabrics and shredded, distressed elements. Ties created by Marwood London and shoes by Robert Clergerie are credited, with reverence, as collaborations with “heritage craftsmen”, demonstrating that Matthew’s take on conventionality accepts no compromise on quality. Subtlety is an underused and undervalued tool in fashion, especially when used, as here, to deliver a statement of intent in the place of so much visual noise.
Reviewing Casely-Hayford’s work becomes increasingly hard as the father and son designers deliver such consistently beautiful collections, exhibiting a dazzling range of techniques and visual references within each one that it is difficult to sum up the whole without seeming repetitive. Colour is always a huge part of the experience but across no less than 31 looks there were distinct phases, from the racy reds of the openers to the softer creams, deep blues and a specific green that might have been the hero colour of the night. Styled, unusually, by the designers themselves, specific touches included metallic socks paired with sandals by the brand called Ancient Greek in an extremely contemporary combination.
With unlikely coincidence, Sibling’s show also started with an unexpected suit or two, but here the similarity with Matthew Miller’s collection ends as the Sibling collection was about anything but restraint. Looking back, the lacing detail on the hem of the suit trousers and the sheer breadth of the model’s shoulders were a strong hint of what was to come. And what was to come was Sibling’s irreverent take on the American Jock. You may already have seen the buttock-revealing back views of the American Football pants that the models later on in Sibling’s show revealed to the initially gasping, later grinning audience (and now doubtless scattered as images far and wide on the Internet). But before we get lost in that particular vision, lets talk about knitwear. A honeycomb geometric print in bold yellow and black had the stark colour contrast of sportswear but with the visual intricacy of high fashion. A scaled-up swirling curlicue appeared across pastel knits and denim and then the clothes started to reveal more flesh as the chunky, oversized laces at the crotch of both tailored trousers and more conventional football pants became more distracting. Loose cardigans in bold stripes, football vests with collegiate lettering, snug football tops, sports mesh, the colours, and construction were familiar from classic images of American sportsmen but the details were scaled up, sexed up and amplified in such a way as to make you look at them anew, like the best of Pop Art. Once the tabloid press get hold of the “bumster” images it may be harder to argue for the wearability of a Sibling cardigan, but should you come across their clothing on a rail, even without the presence of a ripped Alpha male to model it for you, I recommend you to take a closer look. It’s all really rather beautiful.