Charles Jeffrey uses tough upbringing to transform fashion show into an art | Fashion

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Fashion designer Charles Jeffrey was bullied as a child growing up in Glasgow. The 27-year-old’s latest LOVERBOY collection, shown at London fashion week men’s on Sunday evening, was his way of showing those bullies that they didn’t beat him. In fact, he’s become an indisputable star of London fashion.

A Charles Jeffrey fashion show – this was his second solo outing – is not the staid kind when models walk up and down wearing the designer’s idea of what their customer will want to wear next season. Instead, this is closer to performance art.

Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY show



Photograph: Isabel Infantes/PA

The show began with young men and women, painted white and wearing everything from a tutu to Elizabethan style shorts, screaming at the audience – appropriate for a collection called ‘tantrum’. As the models came out, this cast formed a backdrop, sitting at tables, drinking wine from the bottle and heckling like extraordinary gargoyles. The idea was partially inspired by artist Claes Oldenburg who staged happenings in the sixties. The sculptures – including an enormous one that looked like a sandcastle worn on a model’s head – were also influenced by the artist.

Backstage, Jeffrey said the collection was based on his background, and Alan Downs’ 2005 book The Velvet Rage, about growing up gay. “I think there has been a lot of changes in my life for the good and the best way I can describe this is growing pains,” he said. “This show was about exploring that feeling that I used to have as a kid, ‘one day I’ll show them.’”

One of Jeffrey’s strengths – and perhaps the reason he won the emerging talent prize at December’s Fashion Awards – is that the clothes shown here weren’t just a backdrop to theatrics. Looked at closely, there are commercial pieces that would appeal to a customer that might also buy Vivienne Westwood and Comme des Garçon.

The show opened with a perfectly cut suit slashed in various places, the paint splattered prints were fun and knitwear was strong, including a jumper that read ‘Loverboy’. Jeffrey also introduced his own LOVERBOY tartan on a suit worn by a model with faceprint and a conical wig – perhaps the perfect way to reclaim his heritage but do something radical with it.

Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY show



Photograph: WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

Racial identity was more in focus in Grace Wales Bonner’s collection. The 26-year-old based it in a port in the Caribbean as a site of, as the show notes said, “exchange and transgression”, one that “becomes a central and vibrant location”. Wales Bonner translated that idea to clothes by making hybrids of pieces for land and sea, for the past and now, and for women and men. Several female models were included in the show. Suiting, outerwear and shirting dominated.

Backstage, Wales Bonner said Creole identity in the Caribbean was a focus. This demographic have mixed heritage, like Wales Bonner herself. “There is something about this unresolvedness about that that I can identify with,” she said. “Having a distance from this place and thinking about it in a romantic way.”

Wales Bonner showed off her considerable technical skill in this collection. The fabrics looked sumptuous – silks, wools, satins. The prints were stand out. A brightly-coloured design with figures on the deck of a ship, based on 1940s paintings by African-American painter Jacob Lawrence, was particularly striking when worn on a suit. The silhouette was long and lean – with the occasional slither of midriff. It would quite easily transition from a man’s to a woman’s wardrobe, and back again.

Earlier in the day, Kent & Curwen presented a more established idea of a man for 2018. The contemporary brand, founded on Savile Row in 1926, has been working with David Beckham – an icon of modern masculinity for around 20 years – since 2015 when he invested to become majority owner. To celebrate the brand’s new store on Floral Street – a move from Savile Row – Beckham hosted a lunch on Sunday. The menu was appropriate: pie and mash followed by sticky toffee pudding.

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