10 Years of Charles Jeffrey’s Playful Loverboy at London Fashion Week

10 Years of Charles Jeffrey’s Playful Loverboy at London Fashion Week

10 Years of Charles Jeffrey’s Playful Loverboy at London Fashion Week

In a time of uncertainty for the UK fashion industry, a beacon of joy emerges as Charles Jeffrey’s Loverboy celebrates its 10th anniversary. Originating as a queer club night in East London, Loverboy has dressed icons like Tilda Swinton and Harry Styles. The brand, known for its tartan, trash, animalism, anarchy, paganism, and punk, marks a decade of creativity and rebellion.

The anniversary exhibition, which opened at Somerset House, features a poster from a 2015 club night, adorned with doodled hearts and entry prices of £3 before midnight and £5 after. This memento encapsulates the interdisciplinary nature of the brand, founded by Glaswegian designer Charles Jeffrey. The funds from these club nights were initially used to finance his label.

Jeffrey reminisced about a time when music and fashion were deeply intertwined in London. Wearing his brand’s signature loafers with metal claws, he addressed the press, highlighting the brand’s journey from underground roots to the red carpet. Jeffrey has collaborated with avant-garde designer Rei Kawakubo and received financial backing from fashion group Tomorrow, propelling Loverboy onto a global stage.

While not yet a household name, Jeffrey has been praised by fashion critics for his creativity and cheerfulness. He draws inspiration from Andy Warhol, creating not just clothing but also music, videos, artwork, and scripts. The exhibition, titled “The Lore of Loverboy,” showcases the brand’s origins, creative process, and its glamorous present.

Polaroids of partygoers, outfits from Jeffrey’s student collections, and early Loverboy looks trace the brand’s genesis. An upcycled dress from 2019, featuring bacteria-like clusters of foil-covered balls, epitomizes the brand’s DIY aesthetic. Jeffrey coined the term “availabilism” to describe using whatever materials were available in the early days.

A sewing table cluttered with tape measures, invoices, and coffee cups gives a glimpse into the collaborative process at the heart of the brand. Jeffrey is pleased that the exhibition honors everyone involved in the brand’s journey. The brand’s signature tartan, inspired by Jeffrey’s clubbing makeup and registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans in 2018, is also on display.

The final room of the exhibition showcases outfits designed for stars like Styles and Swinton. The exhibition opened alongside a show in the courtyard of Somerset House, part of London men’s fashion week. The event featured performances by Beth Ditto and appearances by models in oversized caps, deconstructed suiting, and unique knitwear.

In a recent interview, Jeffrey addressed comparisons to other British designers, emphasizing his unique vision. He described his approach to fashion as humorous and validating of mistakes. Exhibition designer David Curtis-Ring noted the brand’s mix of outlandish and adorable designs, referencing the popular hats with bunny and cat ears.

Despite its playful nature, the brand’s humor often stems from a darker place, reflecting queer sensibilities and experiences of being othered. Loverboy is now seeking further investment and looking towards a bright future, even as other British brands face challenges. Jeffrey reflects on the impacts of Brexit, gentrification, and the decline of nightlife in London.

For Jeffrey, the 10-year milestone is a cause for celebration. Hosting the show at Somerset House, a Grade I-listed building, and presenting his unique take on fashion is a joy. The exhibition, running until September 1, is accessible on a pay-what-you-can basis.

Jeffrey’s spring 2025 show in the courtyard of Somerset House distilled his aesthetic and values: British heritage, queer club culture, inclusivity, and an appreciation for art and craft. The collection featured playful interpretations of striped shirts, deconstructed outerwear, and visual illusion t-shirts. Prom dresses with XL rosettes and witty banana boots added to the charm.

The show highlighted the importance of knitwear in Jeffrey’s business, with playful knits representing a significant portion of the collection. The diverse cast included Jeffrey’s inner circle, such as photographer Jordan Hemingway and singer Beth Ditto, who performed during the finale.

Erin O’Connor closed the show in a sweeping polka-dot gown with purple horns, embodying the brand’s playful spirit. Jeffrey, who has evolved over the past decade, is now thinking more commercially. For the first time, he chose not to paint his face blue for the show, a trademark of his early days.

Charles Jeffrey’s Loverboy has managed to survive Brexit and the pandemic, becoming a brand that sells beanies, quirky accessories, and fun knitwear. At just 33, Jeffrey continues to inspire a new generation, reminding them to dream and embrace alternative realities.

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