Over the last year, 25-year-old CSM graduate Charles Jeffrey has made a name for himself on and off the runway as an arbiter of nightlife culture and fashion alike. With the notorious East London club night Loverboy, as well as menswear collections that aim to deconstruct common depictions of gender and (male) beauty, Jeffrey is a young force to be reckoned with. Glamcult spoke to the Glasgow-born designer about the story behind his work, why he’s not trying to be McQueen and the “freak soup” that makes London an exciting place to be.
Your club night began just over a year ago. What is Loverboy and how did it start?
Loverboy started when I was asked to do a club night at Vogue Fabrics, which coincided with my 24th birthday. It was a night to just have fun and be with friends, and from there it grew in popularity so we decided to keep it going. Now, Loverboy is a laboratory for me to work with people and try out new ideas.
You’ve shown two menswear collections so far: your graduate collection and your S/S16 collection presented at Fashion East. What’s your working process when designing?
I illustrate a lot and work with people to help get me into a certain vibe. I also like making images and little films to help explain what I’m trying to say through each of my bodies of work. I think there’s something to be said about not overthinking and just allowing myself to be lazy sometimes. I often end up finding inspiration while being lazy, actually. I’ve found that when I’m not thinking too hard about things, something I’ve totally disregarded as an idea can suddenly come back to me and seem to work. I also try not to take myself too seriously.
You recently won Fashion Graduate of the year at the Scottish Fashion Awards. How did that feel?
It was great! I was very honoured to be alongside such talented Scottish people. It was a very proud Scottish night, ha-ha. Also, lots of champagne.
What’s the story behind your A/W15 graduate collection?
Truthfully, I kind of struggled with that collection. I actually didn’t have anything fully decided upon until the first fitting. It was based on my illustrations as well as how I dress, and just my entire vibe at the time.
Who is a designer working right now that you find inspiring?
I really love what Grace Wales Bonner is doing. She’s putting something out there that has so much heart and soul to it. Of course I have heroes like Galliano, Yohji Yamamoto, Raf Simons and Rei Kawakubo… but to feel in person what I’ve felt via my heroes through films and books was very touching. There’s something special about the fact that Grace is around the same age as me and lives in London. She has an incredible vision and is making something truly beautiful.
You moved to London when you were 18 to do the BA course in fashion design at Central Saint Martins. What do you like about living in London?
You can do anything in London. If you decided you wanted to make a film tomorrow, you can do that. If you’re passionate about what you do and you’re willing to work hard, you can get whatever you want. It’s so easy to meet people and you can always find someone to work with that you really like. Yeah, it’s shit for a lot of reasons and it’s expensive—of course. By no means is it an easy city to live in. It can be a real struggle and I’ve felt that struggle. But there is always someone to talk to and be, like, “Yeah, it’s shit.” Then you go to a nice café and have an avocado toast and it’s great again. The nightlife here now is also incredible. There are so many amazing people who are excited to be here. And all the freaks move to London, which is the best part. It’s like a freak soup. A freak soup peppered with poverty.
Which direction do you see Charles Jeffrey heading in the coming years?
Firstly I’m looking to build a team, because right now it’s really just me working on the label. I can be a bit destructive when it comes to my own work, so I think I need that partner or somebody to work with who believes in what I do and wants to work with me day in and day out. Someone who won’t let me get away with murder, basically.
What are you envisioning for your next collection?
I’ve got loads of ideas about what I want to do next. I kind of feel like a rebellious teenager right now. My room and workspaces are a disaster. I think it’s really me trying to be something that I’m not and then reacting to that. Like, I’m kind of done trying to be this proper “adult” fashion designer and having these crazy high expectations of my career and myself. I haven’t got any money, it’s hard to live in London! Why should I be trying to be like McQueen or something? I’m not. Why should I try so hard to be the best pattern cutter? That’s not me. I’ve become a bit sick of trying to be these things that I’m just not. Maybe I’m feeling a bit punk.