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Backstage at Charles Jeffrey SS17Photography Lillie Eiger, Instax Wide film courtesy of Fujifilm

Charles Jeffrey explores the comedown as well as the party

The designer puts club kids in couture, taking his LOVERBOY fashion to the next level

The lights went down before Charles Jeffrey’s SS17 show with MAN yesterday afternoon, and out of the darkness backstage scurried a team of people, wielding buckets and bags of white sand. Puncturing the sacks with scissors, they scattered their contents across the floor, coating it in a sea of sand and plucked petals before running back into the shadows. Against the computer screen at the mouth of the runway, a white ball of light glowed and rose like a full moon – the perfect pagan symbol for a new season of Charles Jeffrey muses to be born under. 

The first models to hit the catwalk sauntered out in looks that explored the familiar signatures of couture tailoring through a gender-queer eye – one model sported a bar jacket, its sleeves slashed to the shoulder (and paired with a porcupine spiked choker). Another wore pinstriped trousers and a crisp white shirt, thrown off kilter with stacks of sparkling chokers and shining S-curled hair, while a statuesque boy in a belted coat had a look that was part drag queen, part 50s society woman.

“I always saw the show as being in three chapters. This idea of ascendance, this idea of chaos, tension and anxiety, and the comedown” – Charles Jeffrey

For Jeffrey, the season was an opportunity to explore historical fashion references, elevating his club kid rep with odes to the greatest couturiers – albeit in his own “chaotic, naïve” way. “With the first show it was a big, ‘This is who I am, this is what I do,’” he explained, looking back to his runway debut last season. “That was obviously picked up a lot like, okay, this is Charles. But I also went to fashion school.” 

Of course, the Loverboys – club kid muses who blur the boundaries between the runway and the dancefloor – were never far away. Out they marched in painted denim, perfectly ripped jumpers and with painted faces. On the screen, the full moon soon changed, transforming into a dizzying, twisted montage of sweat, skin, food and sex in a film by Jeffrey’s friend and long term collaborator Gareth Wrighton. It was visceral – hinting at a seedier (or perhaps simply more human) side of the designer’s nightlife-inspired universe.

“I always saw the show as being in three chapters,” Jeffrey explained. “This idea of ascendance, this idea of chaos, tension, and anxiety, and the comedown.” Whether intentional or not, that last phrase lent new level of meaning to the white powder covered floor, strewn with trodden on flowers. After the elevated tailoring and the riotous spirit of LOVERBOY, Jeffrey admitted that he wanted to end the show on a note of “sombreness”, the music transforming into an eerie chiming clock as the final models took to the catwalk. It may have been a step into a new kind of underworld, but it worked. After all, sometimes #aboutlastnight has a darker side.