Step up: Charles Jeffrey’s escapist party moves from the nightclub to the gallery
Charles Jeffrey loves a party. The London designer’s name is rapidly becoming a by-word for nightlife and its attendant freedoms, due in part to his riotous Dalston club nights, Loverboy, which started back in 2014 as a way to raise funds for his graduate collection while at Central Saint Martins.
Now he’s bringing that kind of party to the gallery setting, thanks to the winter fashion commission at Now Gallery in Greenwich Peninsula, London. ‘The Come Up’ is Jeffrey’s first solo exhibition, and features his fashion illustrations and associated 3D sculptures, all in an interactive experience that echoes the atmosphere of the cult Loverboy parties.
‘The vibe that I’m trying to recreate is about claiming a space, and making that space a safe haven for people to be themselves,’ he explains ahead of the exhibition’s opening today. ‘So the whole gesture of the exhibition is to create a safe space to be your alter ego or a heightened version of yourself, which is what we always try to achieve with Loverboy.’
To get there, Jeffrey worked with fabricators who helped him translate his colourful gestural illustrations of faces and hands into something three-dimensional. Sculpture was not something the designer had worked with before. First came quick embryonic sculptures, made by Jeffrey out of garden wire and packing tape. Then these sculptures were transformed, in collaboration with sculptors and welders, into something more stable, using materials like jesmonite, papier-mache, fibreglass and PVC.
‘I’d hold up my initial sculpture and explain that I want it to look like this, but I still want it to validate the naïveté of the first subject,’ he describes. ‘Those original proposals have a real frivolity and quickness to them.’ The resulting exhibition is an interactive, multimedia exploration of identity and creativity, two themes that permeate Jeffrey’s escapist fashion collections.
This is the third time Now Gallery has collaborated with an emerging London fashion designer. In previous years the winter fashion collaboration was allotted to Phoebe English and Molly Goddard, two designers of a similar milieu to Jeffrey and also Central Saint Martins graduates.
For Jeffrey, the exhibition itself represents the chance to get outside his comfort zone. ‘It’s an opportunity for me to indulge in the work I’ve always wanted to do outside of fashion design,’ he says. ‘I could have easily knocked on the doors of our previous collaborators, get them to help out, but I really wanted to find a new way of working and work in a different way with different people. I’ve learned a lot, and I think [in the future], scale and drama in our fashion shows will be amplified because of this exhibition.’