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The London Look - Charles Jeffrey's Place in London's Fashion History

London is a catalyst of radical fashion design, each decade introducing new designers to build on and modify the history of British fashion. After London Fashion Week Men’s this January, the latest designer fit to continue its progress appears to be Charles Jeffrey. In what was only his fourth solo show, the twenty-seven-year old consolidated his clear design concept, and modern ideologies, setting his label up to pioneer the future of The London Look.

Jeffery’s LOVERBOY is a brand born out of London’s cultural influences. The Scottish designer named his label after the East End club night he hosted during his time at Central St Martins. His shows breathe the nightlife muses, with characteristically bold ‘club kid’ make-up and provocative, gender defying dressing. LOVERBOY is the voice of the youth and specifically empowers the LGBTQ+, standing for the right to individuality and acceptance. The label’s representation of non-binary and transsexual people is both liberating and exciting; a perspective desperately needed in the political climate of the present. Despite this serious aspect, the clothes remain playful and energised with unique motifs, like his doodles of fantasy creatures that appear throughout.

Considering bold individuality in London’s fashion history, Vivienne Westwood, the mother of Punk dressing, is the place to begin. Her Kings Road shop SEX birthed the provocatively printed T-shirts, bondage pants, leather straps and chains that are associated with the subculture’s fashion. Jeffrey also dresses a subculture, and Punk’s deliberate ‘fuck you’ to societal expectation and establishment is something regularly referenced in his work. In his most recent show, leather boots morphed into the paws, and claws, of big cats. This expertly reworks an icon of Punk clothing into a relevant modern piece and links the continued fight of his customers with that of the movement.

Charles Jeffrey AW19

Jeffrey’s recent AW19 show saw androgyny and masculinity take centre stage for questioning. It attacked societal constructs, such as gender and heteronormativity, in an approach similar to Westwood’s, but took on fresh meaning in modern day. The models’ faces were often obscured by hats, lace veils, and most intriguingly cut-outs of leaves. The leaves totally consumed their features, taking with it their perceived gender and screamed questions on human nature – do we all have to hide behind the façade of what society has deemed natural? This, in combination with Jeffrey’s total disregard of gender clothing stereotypes, results in a space free from constraints and constructs, celebrating diversity and difference in the face of the status quo.

John Galliano’s contributions to London’s creative scene also take on a new form through Jeffrey. Galliano’s 1984 graduate show at CSM entitled Les Incroyablessaw flamboyant, eighteenth-century designs strut down the runway – gorgeously oversized bows, jodhpurs, riding boots, sabres and all. This romanticised, historical dressing was brought to the zeitgeist by Westwood, her runway debut The Pirate Collection coming just four years before. Such motifs live on through LOVERBOY but are shaded with modern nuances. In the SS18 collection, an Eighteenth-century military jacket met hand engulfing, fluted sleeves in an oversized, period aesthetic similar to Galliano’s. It was starkly contrasted by an electric blue, high waisted skirt and leather boots that walked the line of punk and pirate. The look exemplifies Jeffrey’s unique ability to take what is, or has been, fashionable and juxtapose it with his modern ideologies and design, ensuring it is contemporary and impactful.

John Galliano 1984 / Charles Jeffrey SS18

McQueen’s influence on British fashion was immense, and it comes as no surprise to see it continue to guide new designers today. Incidentally, McQueen and Jeffrey were both mentored by the late Louise Wilson at CSM, however the pair share more than this. McQueen introduced a newly performative, and provocative, nature of shows, with models flipping middle fingers and flashing the audience, as well as darker anger coming through in collections like his AW95, The Highland Rape. LOVERBOY emulates these elements, most clearly in the AW18 collection, Tantrum. Actors screamed at the audience members as they took their seats and uncontrollably applauded Jeffrey’s clothes. On the collection, he told Vogue “there’s a feeling of I’ll-show-‘em; they chase me home at night, beat me up. I’ll fucking show ‘em. One day I’ll be a fucking designer and make lots of money!", explaining their presence as a statement on the internalised anger felt by the LGBTQ+.

Looking retrospectively testifies to the interconnected web that is London’s creative scene, with designers constantly playing on and off each other over time. The question still remains, is Charles Jeffrey the next chapter of the London Look? Only time will tell. But with the creativity, diversity, and empowerment that has been exuded by each of his shows so far, I for one can confidently say – I bloody hope so.

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