Taking to Milan Fashion Week is just another step in Jeffrey’s trajectory. In 2022, the designer delivered a conceptual Fall/Winter 2022 collection that captured New York’s No Wave scene, and soon followed it up with the continuation of his Fred Perry collaboration. SS23 highlighted the Queer experiences of lifewhile towards the end of the year, the designer stepped out of his zone with a George Cox footwear collection and a homeware rangeall while working behind the scenes to dress the likes of Tilda Swinton for the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Awards 2022.
It is the latter that Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY hooks onto for FW23. In a collection titled “Engine Room,” the brand references the art of the Scottish artist and playwright John Byrne; graphics that were depicted all over Swinton’s custom ensemble. Explaining this in more detail, the brand says, “The unique combination of stark realism, satire, and surrealist fantasy that permeates John Byrne’s entire body of work constitutes a rich point of reference for Charles Jeffrey’s original concept.”
The concept in question was a theatrical presentation of three parts, all of which fall under the collective title and guise “WELCOME TO THE ENGINE ROOM — A UTOPIA ENGINEERED FOR YOU.” Opening the show was a siren and white light moment hidden in the depths of a steampunk-meets-industrial engine room, which soon became the space for models to descend from.
Out came looks that saw models dirtied and disheveled, holding rattling metal box bags and wearing double-breasted blazers blasted with the phrase “THE SCOTTISH BASIC.” Odes to industrialism — both in the U.K. and in Milan — came as nails printed on a white tank top, leather strap belts, and another model holding a lantern prop to cast a light on his asymmetrical bias cut blazer, it looking as if it was caught in the windy surroundings of olde Britain.
The workers were replaced by LOVERBOY’s “Posers,” a gaggle of insiders known for their killer outfits and deadlier tactics to be seen. From claw footwear to the boldest of intarsia knitwear, glossy patent pants in checkered prints to coats decked in artwork, this was the designer’s moment to be bold and brave.
Or so we thought, as it was when the final of the three came out in unison that the audience was truly blown away. The “Snakes,” as it’s put, are inspired by newspapers — some wore The Scottish Basic newspaper as a headpiece while other’s found their dresses plastered in headlines, and at the end, a trio of models ascended into the ravey warehouse with three unified, and utterly eerie, looks.
With the presentation over — and our minds blown away by the theatrics of it all — Hypebeast headed backstage to find out more from the designer himself.
“I was really inspired by Byrne’s film The Slab Boys. It’s a tale of someone who wants to strive to do better — and to me, this collection is a celebration of Scotland, of workers, the renaissance man, woman, or in between. It’s an opportunity to be authentic in a new space, it’s like meeting somebody new and putting yourself out there again. I feel like we achieved a lot in London and the choice to come to Milan felt so right; it’s an industrial city and that worked so well with the collection.
The collection has a ’50s feel to it with [the influences] of John Byrne and teddy boys, and there’s also traditional maximalism. Kind of like, fierce, nuclear tartans, almost so wrong that they’re right. We’ve shifted our primary colors into cobalt, orange and gold, and we’ve used Byrne’s paintings as prints themselves.
We wanted to see this more like a film. The characters are an important thing — why do they wear what they are wearing? Why do they have a cut on their face? Why is there gold on their forehead? There are so many elements, and for me, it’s satire, it’s an allegory for what’s going on right now as we try to keep our heads above water. The ‘Posers’ are arrogant about it, and we’ve used the newspapers like a pinstripe, we wanted to be bolder by using this propaganda.
There’s something so nice about ending with three models. Ending with someone who is more mature means you can see LOVERBOY worn in different ways. I wanted to have an amalgamation of everything, it’s my debut! I wanted to throw everything [at it].”
Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY FW23’s “Engine Room” collection can be seen in the gallery above, and for more content, head over to Hypebeast’s dedicated Milan Fashion Week FW23 page.
For more London brands in Milan, take a look at JW Anderson FW23.