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Charles Jeffrey at NOW Gallery | © Charles Jeffrey
Charles Jeffrey at NOW Gallery | © Charles Jeffrey
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Charles Jeffrey at NOW Gallery, 'The Come Up'

Picture of India Doyle
Updated: 21 November 2017
Ahead of his new exhibition at NOW Gallery at Greenwich Peninsula, Culture Trip catches up with designer Charles Jeffrey.

London is smitten with Charles Jeffrey, one of the most exciting menswear designers to take on the catwalk in recent seasons. A graduate of Central Saint Martins, the designer launched his brand, Charles Jeffrey’s LOVERBOY, through Fashion East. LOVERBOY encompasses club nights and costume, merging the two into mesmeric performance pieces within the fashion scene.

The LOVERBOY club night has become a locus London’s underground scene, bringing together London’s most compelling creatives figure. On the catwalk, the story is similar, with Charles bringing the same energy to a more mainstream platform. Though that doesn’t limit creativity: for SS18 Jeffrey brought a medley of dancers to the catwalk, dressed up in bright pink cardboard creations they paved the way for the joy of the rest of the collection. The season before, Charles Jeffrey walked giant papier-maché creations along the catwalk, punctuating his playful designs with flashes of pure surrealism.

It’s not uncommon for young designers to start with big ideas and scale back as they wrestle with financial demands, but the Scottish designer has done the opposite, pushing the realm within which menswear can exist without burning out or losing momentum. In this, comparisons between Jeffrey and womenswear designer Gareth Pugh (coincidentally also Scottish) feel natural – the latter recently shunned the catwalk entirely in favour of a visceral film made with SHOWstudio: art and fashion blurred readily into one.

Operating in this similar vein, The Come Up, Jeffrey’s exhibition at NOW Gallery, is a fitting reflection of where the brand is at right now. Opening at the end of November, the new London show sees Jeffrey bring the best of LOVERBOY into a gallery space. Based around the designer’s illustrations, the exhibition brings together sculptural pieces made from PVC, fibreglass, chicken wire and papier-mache, alongside an interactive experience that invites audiences to spontaneously engage with their creativity.

Ahead of the exhibition, we caught up with Jeffrey to talk about creativity in London, merging art and fashion and a fascination with faces.

Culture Trip: You approach design in a very interconnected, alchemic way. What is fashion to you?

Charles Jeffrey: It’s about people. Everything I’m interested in is related to people. Whether it’s in terms of process – in collaborating, or spotlighting amazing creatives – or when it comes to final results. We think about the idea of characters a lot. Fashion can allow you to take the essence of what makes someone magical and completely enhance it, or it can let you transform a person entirely. It’s a beautiful weapon.

CT: How did you come to weave performance so tightly into your brand? Was it theoretical or instinctive?

CJ: LOVERBOY was born through nightlife, so performance will always be a big part of what I do. It’s where I come from and what feels natural.

CT: London isn’t famed for being friendly to young creatives, how have you found launching LOVERBOY in the city?

CJ: I actually think London’s quite a brilliant place for creativity to thrive, compared to other cities. It’s not without its challenges but there’s a sense of purpose and dynamism. I don’t think we would have been able to loan a label like this anywhere else. You feel quite free to do things your own way here.

CT: How do you find the process of designing sculpture vs clothes. Which do you find a more visceral medium?

CJ: Working at this scale is a completely new process for me, so the NOW Gallery project has been hugely informative. Sculptural work is an amazing way to translate ideas in an uncompromising way.

CT: What is it about the human face that interests you?

CJ: I’ve always had this compulsion to draw faces, over and over again, since I was little. I’ve drawn obsessively since I was young. I used to want to be a video game designer, which is tied in with that idea of characters… I love the idea of creating worlds for them to exist in. Our fashion shows use that energy too. I see them as dreamscapes or weird imagined universes.

CT: You have already garnered wide critical acclaim, do you see a conflict between commercial success and creative design, or creative process?

CJ: I don’t feel pressure to think commercially. Having a bit of a framework is actually helpful for creativity, in a strange way. The right amount of commercial thinking anchors things for me and then we let the rest go full fantasy.

CT: You’ve opened up a really exciting space in the British menswear scene, where do you want to take it now?

CJ: I want to keep making work that makes people feel good. If we can do that I’m happy.

Charles Jeffrey new exhibition, The Come Up is on at NOW Gallery from 30th November–11th February 2018.