The words we usually associate with the world of club kids are ones which relate to escapism. Think about it – ‘hedonism’, ‘fantasy’, ‘underground’. In reality, though, what nightlife culture does best is translate the anxieties and political turbulences of today into something creative and enlivened – and that’s what Charles Jeffrey did yesterday with his show as part of Topman’s MAN emerging talent initiative. Inspired by “warped world events and the existential worries of young creatives in uncertain terrain”, Jeffrey’s group of LOVERBOYs (the collective who attend his club night of the same name) descended into a fantasy world of pagan ritual, outerspace travel and historical fascination.
The show opened with a troupe of dancers, their bodies covered in clay, who walked out into the space in a slow, zombie-like procession. When the lights came up and the thundering Björk soundtrack kicked in, they came alive, writhing and twisting – reaching towards the models who began to appear on the catwalk. (They were choreographed by Theo Adams, who Jeffrey invited to perform at a night he put on aged 16, where Adams promptly blew glitter into his delighted face.) The collection wove its way through centuries of history and tailoring, with Jeffrey saying backstage he was thinking about dandies and the act of getting dressed for an audience. There were oversized wigs, ruffled Elizabethan shoulders, Georgian breeches and Prince of Wales coats; boxy suiting in pinstripe, velvet and silk; starched collars and ceremonial cassocks.
“This show was his response to uncertain futures: both a fantastical vision and a very real warning.”
Punctuating the show was the appearance of giant sculptural deities, created by set designer Gary Card. The first was towering and green-headed. Next was a bulbous and clay covered pagan creation, followed by one which resembled a twisted comet, covered in stars and stripes (all of which have already been installed in London’s Dover Street Market, should you wish to see them for yourself). “They were supposed to get more and more chaotic, going from earth goddess to a kind of comet goddess, with a sense of doom spread through all of them,” explained Card backstage. "And of course, the decaying American dream.” Finally, the biggest being of all swept through the space, and the dancers ran from it screaming. End scene. So, what did it all mean? “We always thought the final goddess would be the omen – it's a reflection of what's going on in society today,” explained Jeffrey. This show was his response to uncertain futures: both a fantastical vision and a very real warning.