It’s funny to note that this was Charles Jeffrey’s first solo show. So much popularity in so little time! The Scottish designer has already made quite the name for himself as London’s resident party-boy-cum-club-kid-cum-fashion-voice. He’s hosting parties, starring in videos and gracing the pages of magazines with his crew. A quiet, steady ascent, his is not. Who’d have thought he’s only done three seasons with MAN?
Jeffrey has managed to bottle up an energy that people already love London for - one that’s jubilant, inclusive, care-free, punkish - and sell it as his own. Optimists and newbies love his shows, finding them uplifting. Cynics say they remember it all the first time. Certainly, there are huge debts to Vivienne Westwood, Leigh Bowery and John Galliano. But in today’s fashion climate, it seems you’re only as good as your references, so Jeffrey’s success shouldn’t be a surprise. He captures the zeitgeist, tapping into everything fashion is currently obsessed with - youth and 'alternative' lifestyles, a championing of queer and trans issues, intense nostalgia.
The latter is what makes Jeffrey’s work the most interesting. He’s following in Westwood’s path by pulling liberally and haphazardly from history, paying tribute to the fashions of many different eras. I’m most impressed by his work when it feels decidedly British. There’s something so genuinely subversive about a young queer man pushing patriotism and pride at such a time of flux when it comes to national identity. His tartan suits were convincing, as were his sharply tailored trousers. Jeffrey’s made his name with natty knitwear and there was plenty on offer for his buyers. They’ll also lap up his t-shirts printed with newspaper headlines - 'Children high on drink and drugs', screamed one. How droll. This kind of mindless, two-fingers-up amusement will appeal to a young customer who wants to appear subversive through revelry and consumption rather than direct action. A shopper who thinks that partying and posturing amounts to activism. The show notes declared, 'It’s not enough to stay woke - we need to be alive.' Sound a bit Kendall Jenner with a Pepsi can? Perhaps. But others eat it up. In the eyes of these fashionable flavours of the month, simply being themselves is enough to merit attention.