Meet the ringleader of London’s next-generation club kids

Fashion East newcomer and LOVERBOY founder Charles Jeffrey on setting up a club night to fund his degree in design

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Charles Jeffrey Loverboy Instax Fashion East
Charles Jeffrey and Jenkin Van ZylCourtesy of Charles Jeffrey

“It’s gender-queer, it’s powerful, it’s misfit, it’s angry, it’s sweaty.” So says designer Charles Jeffrey of LOVERBOY, the birthday party-turned-Dalston nightlife fixture he founded that sees attendees daub themselves in paint, put on their best make-up and extravagant, often self-made outfits, and, of course, dance. Like those of its subcultural ancestors (think Taboo, the Batcave, Blitz), which saw gangs of outrageously dressed eccentrics descend on to the streets of London, LOVERBOY’s origins were DIY – an empty slot at Vogue Fabrics, some handmade, giant hearts and pictures printed off the internet and stuck up haphazardly on the walls.

“It’s just a great place where you can come together and get a bit dressed up,” says Jeffrey of the night, whose attendees have become a community of their own. That seems like an understatement when you consider the crowd, as seen in his personal collection of Instax – there’s PC Music’s Finn Diesel on the decks, the digi-mavericks behind uncanny net store ebaE rocking up in their own designs, L'Oréal Creative Award-winning CSM grad Matty Bovan looking demure in front of a glittery red curtain, and queen of the Dazed Readers’ 100 Hari Nef posing with peekaboo nipples in a sheer mesh top. A natural-born hustler, Jeffrey overcame the pricey costs of instant film by hitting up Fuji for their sponsorship. “I got in contact with Instax and told them about LOVERBOY, so they sent me a camera and then a shitload of film,” he says. “I try my way into everything, I’ve got sponsorship for most things now!”

A graduate of Central Saint Martins’ BA course, Jeffrey used the funds raised from the once-monthly night to help pay for his MA fashion degree, showing a final collection this February that featured paint-splashed denim balanced out by shrunken wool knits, a magnificent floor-length red coat, and shredded jumpers that revealed bursts of colour beneath. Now, having left the safety of the university, Jeffrey has free rein to let the worlds of fashion and nightlife collide, as today he joins the line up of Fashion East, the London design scheme with alumni including Craig Green, Astrid Andersen and Matthew Miller.

“It’s gender-queer, it’s powerful, it’s misfit, it’s angry, it’s sweaty” – Charles Jeffrey

“I think this is going to be the first time it really comes together, and people can see how it co-exists,” says Jeffrey. His presentation will incorporate elements of the set from past LOVERBOY nights, and the collection literally references the club’s community. “A lot of the clothes are made from things that I have around me like existing pieces, materials that are already made, things I already have. There’s a concept we’re trying to push where we get a piece of clothing from everyone that’s been going to the club and reclaim it again – my friend Tom has a sequin ripped top that we’re redoing. It’s very much about availability as well, adopting what we have around us.”

One of the night’s monthly themes will also be reflected in the presentation. “We had hell, we had porn, we had gum – just really random ones,” says Jeffrey. Indeed, the chaos of the underworld forms the basis of his LC:M presentation (with co-presenter Grace Wales Bonner’s poetic collection upstairs signifying heaven), with sets from past nights taken out of storage at Vogue Fabrics and reimagined in the ICA. If the full body paint, devil horns and sheer attitude on display in his Instax are any indication, it’s set to be one of most exciting showcases of London Collections: Men.

Nevertheless, Jeffrey is a realist about life as a young designer in London. “It’s a great opportunity that I’m taking, but at the same time you can get swept away with it and it’s like... I have an overdraft!” he says. “I went to an Anna Wintour talk and everyone was asking questions like, ‘What was your favourite September issue?’, blah blah blah, and I said, ‘I’m coming out of uni with £40,000 worth of debt, what advice would you give me if I wanted to do my own thing?’ and she just went, ‘Get a job’ – so there’s that kind of talk I have to have with myself.” Whatever the future holds, for now, we can’t wait to see what Jeffrey has up his sleeve.

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