Sometimes all we really want is fantasy, care-free-ness and uplifting escapism. Charles Jeffrey Loverboy‘s spring-summer 2021 collection ticks all of the boxes, plus one more: it’s wearable. Charles Jeffrey’s line-up is a kind of frieze of young fashion’s crazy-joyful fight against fear. Here they are, the expansive Loverboy family, captured in 64 pictures by Tim Walker, a work that’s also printed in a 16-foot long concertina souvenir of the times. “I wanted it to be a physical representation of a stream of consciousness,” says Jeffrey. “It kind of represents my brain as I was thinking on long walks to the studio during lockdown. Taking up space, that’s what we do in a Loverboy show. But now that has gone, stopped. I was thinking: What does it look like when we’re all keeping away from each other?” It ended up as the Healing, a wild celebration of sexiness, inclusion, and craft-y life-forces, with Jeffrey acting as an invoker-provoker of good against evil. “Loverboy was always a community that came together in a club, but also a digital community of friends who’ve gravitated towards us. There are a lot of really amazing people in here,” he says, describing them in his press communiqué as “our queer family captured in defiant joy.” “It was originally nicknamed the Emergency Collection in the studio,” he remembers. “Then, everyone had to go home, except me. There was this panic.” On his solitary daily walks, the Scottish folk tradition enacted by the Burryman (“costumes that ward off evil”) suddenly popped into Jeffrey’s head. That got his creative synapses jumping. “Our interns, god bless them, had started with us bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and excited about working on the collection. I didn’t want to take that experience away from them, so we set a craft project they could work on remotely.” Community, Health, and Hope are the emblems in the Loverboy panels of protective armor, embroidered by interns in isolation. The contradictions between enforced separation and the need to feel united simultaneously sent Jeffrey down a rabbit-warren of research into “warning signs in nature.” Out of the search engine popped the vivid clashing colors and patterns in the collection, inspired by poison dart frogs, blue-ringed octopi, puss moth caterpillars, hickory tussock moths, and marbled cone snails. “Well, poisonous markings in nature are also very bright and attractive. That weird interplay felt really instinctive to me as a person who works with color. How it can ward people off, but also brings them together.” The pathway from there to healing went via chromotherapy – but practically, it’s just there quite obviously and visually in all the eye-dancing Loverboy energy radiating from multicolored knits, tartans, and psychedelic prints. There may be no physical spaces for the rituals of clubbing or fashion performances right now, but never mind. Despite the troubled times, there still exist the territorial rights to identity and psychic freedom that the Loverboy generation has mapped out – the progress, as Jeffrey puts it, “from emergency, terror, and jittering-anguish to elation, sex, communion.”
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.