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The Birth of LOVERBOY

"LOVERBOY has quickly cemented its position as the brand where anything goes."

eharles Jeffrey is a fashion icon in the making. Creator of the fashion brand LOVERBOY, his style is unmistakable. Adopting the philosophy “do rather than overthink”, he has quite suddenly turned the fashion world on its head. By breaking the boundaries of the fashion industry, perceived as earmarked for those in the know, Jeffrey has found creative success through collaboration with peers, and the frenzied crowds dancing at his underground club nights.

His most recent collection for S/S 2018 is quintessentially LOVERBOY. Part Eighties and part Nineties, the collection is like an abstract art piece; a Picasso and a Basquiat thrust together and brought to life, parading down the catwalk.

SS18/SW17 catwalk. Photography: Chris Yates

Huge pink figures crossed between costume and sculpture border the runway, flitting between the models. “Growing up, I always drew,” he explains. “Mostly it was cartoons and weird surreal animals – a lot of the things that I still love to draw now. I wanted to be a video game designer, and a lot of those ideals still live on in my work.”

Scottish born, Jeffrey moved from Glasgow to London after landing a spot at Central St. Martins. “Like so many people, it was university that brought me to London, and I was fascinated by the people I saw wandering the university halls – it filled you with such wonder.”

SS18/SW17 catwalk. Photography: Chris Yates

It was during his time at university that his brand LOVERBOY was created, but Jeffrey steered clear of the traditional path to making a fashion brand. Instead, an offer to host a club night at Vogue Fabrics in Dalston was the turning point in his career.

He explains that after that first night, it became a permanent event. “We had such an amazing reaction and I loved doing it so much that there were two years of LOVERBOY nights over the course of my MA.”

LOVERBOY club night at NOW Gallery. Photograph: Nina Manandhar

It didn’t go unnoticed. It turned heads in the fashion industry, leading to an internship in the haute couture ateliers at Christian Dior. Since the unorthodox beginnings of LOVERBOY, he hasn’t stopped. With a collaboration with John Galliano under his belt, LOVERBOY has quickly cemented its position as the brand where anything goes.

Jeffrey describes the club nights that started it all as a creative outlet. “Everyone would chip in and create work around the nights, be it set building, image capture, performance, and that’s how the collaborative way we work on the label was born. The nights became primary research for my design work. We’d be inspired by the way people dressed at the club, and that would just fuel everything else.”

Photograph: Nina Manandhar

It was through these nights of hedonism that Jeffrey and his cohort found people were really able to indulge in their self-expression, free from restraint. LOVERBOY nights became a safe haven, a place that celebrated excess and individuality in all its forms, and this became the backbone to the brand, feeding club nights into design work and even the catwalk (and vice versa).

“The way our work feels is as important as its aesthetic. I want people to be able to feel like themselves, feel happy, safe, and brave. The fact the label was born from the club night, a place where self-expression and the idea of ‘dressing up’ are most important, has meant that those things are inescapable when I’m designing.”

Photograph: Nina Manandhar

It’s a progressive way to work, one that places greater meaning on expression rather than outcome. His next project will offer even more from his fantastical drawings. Taking place at the NOW Gallery, Jeffrey describes his first solo art exhibition The Come Up as “a milestone moment.”

The show will focus on his sketches that have been brought to life in the form of three-dimensional sculptures, protruding down from the gallery’s seven-metre ceiling. It’ll be a “physical manifestation of a stream of consciousness,” he says. Shelves of mixed media will line the walls, ready for visitors to engage; a process similar to the LOVERBOY club nights.

THE COME UP exhibition at NOW Gallery. Photograph: Casey Moore

“3D work is something I’ve done in terms of set design – for our shows and parties – but it’s my first time creating and taking a hands-on approach to my own sculptures. The essence of the work is deeply rooted in a lot of the themes we explore in the LOVERBOY label: identity, self-expression, and imagination.

I see it as a blowing-up of one of my illustrations in a really joyful way. The main intention for me was to create a space that made people feel an impact. On a personal level, it’s also a really important journey for me as an artist. I’m always learning and I find freedom in that.”

Photograph: Casey Moore

And at only twenty-seven years old, his career has certainly been a swift climb, landing him the title of ‘ringleader’ to London’s next generation of club kids. But he remains unassuming, admitting, “it’s flattering to know we’ve had an impact in some way, but we’re a part of something much greater. London’s an amazing place to be right now, full of heart and brilliant people doing great work.” Which takes us back to the essence of LOVERBOY – a brand that seeks to find inspiration from the dreamland of club nights and creative collaborations.

The Come Up will kick off with Jeffrey putting his own spin on one of the sculptures, followed by a performance. But he’s not letting slip exactly what, only warning us that it will be “something typically chaotic” with a definite “moment of madness”.

The Come Up is on at the NOW Gallery from 30 November 2017 to 11 February 2018.