Ministry Of Love: Inside The Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY Dress Rehearsal
These pictures were never meant to look like this. What should have been a quick chat to talk thoughts and ideas with Charles Jeffrey about shooting his AW17 collection soon turned into something quite different. Within minutes of meeting him at his West End studio, fuelled by builder’s tea and talk of Hogarth, Fragonard and the 17th century, Jeffrey had magicked up the idea of a “fashion shoot slash dress rehearsal”.
“Ten would shoot their favourite AW17 bits,” he said, “with the dress rehearsal for the SS18 fashion show caught in the background.” The dancers for the show would be cast via social media.
“We are looking for passionate and exuberant individuals,” declared Jeffrey’s Instagram account in a democratic shout-out to all his followers. Would-be participants should send a short biog. “I am keen,” said the post, “to involve all those who believe in the vision and want to contribute. Send your shoe size and dancing and performative experience, too.”
Soon, hundreds of wannabe stars were sending their applications; about 40 got through. On the day of the shoot, they were asked to create their own costumes from large squares of pink fabric. Togas were de rigueur, pointy hats were popular and the dancing throngs looked more like a sinister nativity scene for adults only. The pink painted card creatures, big heads, masks and large flowers, plus violin and drum, were created by the artist and set designer Gary Card.
The photographer James Robjant was keen to capture the dance rehearsals of the characters as a kind of “background noise” to Vincent Levy’s styling, and each character was shown how to move and gesture by the choreographer Theo Adams and the artist Jack Appleyard. But Robjant took most time with a series of very still and very moving portraits of our models. Such as Jordan, who stands somewhere around 6ft 7in in a pair of “quite comfy”
blue chelsea boots and is as beautiful as the angel Gabriel. In one outfit he wears a red satin opera coat and red woven T-shirt fashioned underneath in what looks like a net bag. Some light blue satin trousers with smart frog pockets and ice-blue lipstick complete the look. Other clothes are as divine: a pleated wool miniskirt is exceptional when worn with striped hose. Of the clothes, Jeffrey is keen to point out that his inspiration – remember Trump had just been voted into power at this point – was uncertainty and how, during these “warped world events”, young creatives should react and “go full fantasy!”
Jeffrey’s studio cuts with an intimidating hand and his leather Bertha jacket (worn here by one of the Zayeri twins) is a complex series of shapes sewn in such a clever way that the jacket, when fastened, will sit upright – no model needed. The leather for these particular pieces came as a gift from Kim Jones and the Louis Vuitton tannery. “The design of the Bertha comes from a 16th-century French fencing jacket I saw in the Met Museum in New York,” says Jeffrey, who was so taken with the shape he ran downstairs to the gift shop to buy a notebook and pencil and did a quick sketch. This sketch became a starting point for the collection, but the Jeffrey version was cast in sheepskin. “You can see that the original line of the jacket was cut to take the eye down, so all the focus went to the groin area and, ultimately, the wearer’s codpiece. At the time it was perceived as a very masculine garment, for obvious reasons.”
He went through a tortuous process exacting the slope and angle of the rounded jacket seen a few pages back. The slant is 65 degrees from just under the ears to the sleeve head. This is the Submarine jacket and was part of a chapter within the collection that celebrated all things future, be that the future as once imagined in the 1960s – clean lines and tons of silver – or the current idea of modern space travel:
“Streamlined rockets, solid forms in space – even comets.” But in typical Jeffrey fashion, he melded this “new future” with the past. “I was looking at a lot of French military jackets from the 18th century. In fact, this jacket is a mix of the past and the future,” he says. “Taking a military jacket, spinning it round and upgrading it with new lines, like a bullet travelling through space and time.”
The other slope-shouldered pinstripe wool jacket seen in this shoot, worn with nothing underneath, has a slightly damaged quality to it. That undone imperfectness is a characteristic seen in much of Jeffrey’s work and a mirror of the character who wears the garments, too. There is, in the most wonderful sense, something a little “undone” about the Charles Jeffrey clothes crowd. This isn’t identikit shopping for your average no-brainer; these are special bits of wow for an immaculately dressed outsider. The designer, too, often talks about the joy of the undone and it can underscore much of his work. It’s a free- thinking approach that gives his clothes a sort of “new vintage” quality. I often think of Dr Who extras from the mid-’70s when I see his wonderful designs. They feel then and now and from the future all at the same time.
Back at the shoot, like all good dress rehearsals, there were strict codes on how to behave and what to do. To ensure the very best results over the two days of rehearsal and shoot, Jeffrey issued a personal note to all those involved, which we’ve printed here in pink. Pink is important to Jeffrey, as he believes it is the most positive of all colours, and a gesture to all his fellow agents of change who have helped him along the way. The letter gives you a sense of the theatrics and team spirit, and of the warmth of Jeffrey and his “family” – a special collective of people who believe in expression through dance, art and clothes.
Photographer James Robjant
Fashion Editor Vincent Levy
Hair Kota Suizu at Caren using L’Oréal Men Expert
Make-up Anne Sophie Costa using MAC
Models Gabriele and Rayan Zayeri at AMCK, Geron Nord at Supa, Jordan and Yusuf at Nii, Refaya at Models 1, Gaby at Tomorrow Is Another Day and Katie Neels at Elite
Talent Olivier Boivin-Carrier, Meurtri Eros and Cecily C-Eley
Set designer Gary Card
Creative consultant Jack Appleyard
Photographer’s assistants Bradley Polkinghorne and Tom Ayerst
Fashion assistants Joel Traptow and Anna Ganbator
Hair assistant Rino Riccio
Make-up assistant Florencia Doural
Set designer’s assistant Maggie Campbell
Choreographer Theo Adams
Videographer Jenkin van Zyl
Production Laura Motta at 2DM, Georginia Butz and Jen Hope
Production assistant Sophia Reinisch
Shot at Somerset House Studios
Thanks to the Charles Jeffrey cast, Luke Smith, João Machado, Joe Walsh, Stephen George, Sonia Odedra, Lucy Abraham, Nina, Maya, Molly Hatch-Wheatley, Sebastian Darke, Ryan Cullen, Brett John, Gemma O’Brien, Alexandra Murgu, Anne Elmholt, Charlotte LC, Alas Whitehead, Ludwig Meslet, Laurenz Bordiehn, Adam Pavlovcin, India Yeates, Poppy Sheppard, Poppy Appleyard, Ashton McTear, Paige Mullarkey, Alessandro Raimondo, Quentin Hubert, Harrald Smart, James Torrente Galdez, Zoe Marden, Erika Ellsworth, Jeanie Annan-Lewin, Renée Bellamy
Taken from the latest issue of 10 Men, REBEL HEART, on newsstands now..