London-based Scottish designer Charles Jeffrey launched his brand internationally with the debut of Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY at Milan Fashion Week.
Going to Milan Fashion Week is just another step in Jeffrey’s trajectory. In 2022, the designer presented a conceptual Fall/Winter 2022 collection that embraced New York’s No Wave scene, and was soon followed by a continuation of his collaboration with Fred Perry. SS23 highlighted queer experiences of life, while towards the end of the year the designer stepped out of his zone with a George Cox footwear collection and homewares range, all while working behind the scenes to dress the likes of Tilda Swinton for the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Awards 2022.
Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY uses the latter for FW23. In the collection called “Engine Room”, the brand references the art of Scottish artist and playwright John Byrne; graphics that were featured all over Swinton’s custom ensemble. Elaborating, the brand says: “The unique combination of gritty realism, satire and surreal fantasy that pervades John Byrne’s entire oeuvre provides a rich reference point for Charles Jeffrey’s original concept.”
The concept in question was a theatrical presentation of three parts, all under the common title and guise of “WELCOME TO THE MACHINE SHOP — A UTOPIA MADE FOR YOU.” Opening the show was a siren and a moment of white light hidden in the depths of the steampunk-meets-industrial engine room, which soon became the space from which the models descended.
Out came looks that saw dirty and disheveled models, clutching jingling metal bags and wearing double-breasted jackets emblazoned with the words “THE SCOTTISH BASIC”. Odes to industrialism – both in the UK and in Milan – arrived like studs printed on a white tank top, leather belted belts and another model holding a lantern to illuminate his asymmetrical slanted blazer, which looked like it was caught in the windy environment of old Britain.
The workers were replaced by the “Pozers” of LOVERBOY, a group of insiders known for their killer suits and deadlier tactics. From claw-footed footwear to the boldest intarsia knits, shiny patent leather pants with plaid patterns to art-embellished coats, this was the designer’s moment to be bold and bold.
Or so we thought, as it was when the ending three came out in unison that the audience was truly delighted. The “snakes”, as they say, were inspired by newspapers – some were worn Scottish Basic newspaper as a headdress, while others found their dresses on the front pages, and finally a trio of models climbed into the ravey warehouse with three uniform, and extremely creepy, looks.
After the presentation ended — and our minds blown by the theatrics of it all — Hypebeast headed backstage to find out more from the designer himself.
“I was really inspired by Byrne’s film Slab Boys. It’s the story of someone who wants to strive to be better – and for me this collection is a celebration of Scotland, the worker, the renaissance man, the woman or something in between. It’s an opportunity to be authentic in a new space, it’s like meeting someone new and showing yourself again. I feel that we achieved a lot in London and that the choice to come to Milan was the right one; it’s an industrial city and that worked so well with the collection.
The collection has a 50’s feel [the influences] John Byrne and teddy boys, and there is also traditional maximalism. Sort of like, fierce, nuclear tartans, almost so wrong they’re right. We changed our primary colors to cobalt, orange and gold, and used Byrne’s images as the prints themselves.
We wanted to see this more like a movie. Characters are important — why do they wear what they wear? Why do they have a cut on their face? Why is there gold on their foreheads? It has so many elements, and to me it’s a satire, it’s an allegory for what’s happening right now as we try to keep our heads above water. The ‘posers’ are arrogant about it, and we used the newspaper as a pinstripe, we wanted to be bolder using that propaganda.
There is something so beautiful about ending up with three models. Ending up with someone who is more mature means you can see LOVERBOY worn in different ways. I wanted to have a combination of everything, it’s my debut! I wanted to throw everything away [at it].”
Charles Jeffrey’s LOVERBOY FW23 “Engine Room” collection can be seen in the gallery above, and for more content head over to Hypebeast’s dedicated Milan Fashion Week FW23 page.
For more London brands in Milan, check out JW Anderson FW23.