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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!