Loverboy’s Charles Jeffrey Speaks On His Newest Collection for Browns London
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the industry-favorite London-based concept store.
Founded in 1970, Browns London is a legend in the industry. The concept shop’s founder, Joan Burstein (or Mrs.’ B), famously bought then-student John Galliano’s entire graduate collection straight off the runway in 1984. She caught on early to Alexander McQueen, Jil Sander, Rick Owens and Commes de Garcon. She met Calvin Klein out at Studio 54, and introduced Calvin Klein to the UK soon after. Today, Browns East is gender neutral. And the shop is on-the-pulse in its buy, offering everyone from Maximilian Davis to Duran Lantink to Kenneth Ize and more. The luxury shop has a modernity to it, an avant-garde sensibility, that stems from the culture Mrs. B created. It is so rare in the commercial world—especially in today’s retail space.
This month, Browns turned 50. It’s celebrating with a series of special capsule collections from brands like Molly Goddard, Simone Rocha, Off-White, Givenchy, Jill Sander and Fendi. One of the new collections is by Loverboy’s Charles Jeffrey, the CSM alum designer and East London club kid. It’s a cozy, color-driven offering of baby blue tracksuits, tartan mini kilts, and primary-hued knits (with a frown face taking the place of a smile—think sad raver). We caught up with Jeffrey about the Browns collection, the retailer’s big 5-0, and what it means to design club clothes—and survive collectively—in an era of no clubs and remote community.
First, we would love to hear a little bit about your history with Browns. What has it been like working with them over the years, getting stocked for the first time? Do you have any early memories of the concept shop?
We have always worked with Costanza, she is such a joy to work with. I remember being stunned the first time I met her as she looks exactly like my friend Lily Ashwell, a spitting image. My earliest memory of the concept shop is going to South Molton street just on a random outing and fully seeing a shop window with my name on it and all my products. It was amazing.
Can you talk a bit about the capsule collection you designed for the anniversary celebration? Tell us a little bit about the pieces (do you have a favorite?) and the concept behind them. What were your references?
Well it was pretty simple really, I wanted to do something super comfy – we are all looking for comfort right now in all things. We picked warmer tartans to collage together, to re-render products that did really well for us via Browns. We used stock of our fab faux sheepskin to create a tote bag that you could sleep on and a fluffy fez hat to match – I personally wear my ones all the time so they have passed the wear test for me. We also did a cheeky tracksuit to go with it, why not its fucking horrible right now everywhere you look in the world. I just want to be comfy and colourful and positive wherever I can be. Oh and there is a jumper that we rehashed from SS18 I think, its the ‘sad echo’ jumper we originally made it all out of paneled rib and it was so fucking expensive, making it in knit means it’s a lot more accessible.
What was it like designing during lockdown, especially as your clothes have such a connection to lived experience, club culture and a scene? How do you center the community in this time? Do you have any tricks for staying sane?
We designed it based on an authentic want and need for something that made us feel better, that in itself is a lived experience. I guess Zoom is a scene now, so maybe you could say that this collection is based on Zoom calls and going to the supermarket to get a bottle of wine, and kinda looking fabulous whilst doing it. I feel as though, in order to center a community, you just have to be honest with the people around you – ‘I feel like shit’, ‘yeah so do I’, ‘okay let’s feel shit together and look great doing it’.
The trick I have up my sleeve to say sane: it’s a fine bottle of Malbec and anime.
What do you want to say with this capsule collection and season?
It’s fine to feel shit right now, we all do, just try to keep in contact with people you love, make your home a gorgeous nest, and look into ways in which you can help people who are less fortunate than you.
Dream person to wear one of the looks and where? (Could be from the past or present).
Real people, people who are trudging through life authentically and maybe doing something amazing for another person on the daily. Someone who puts people first instead of themselves.
What do you think about the direction of conversations around the gender binary and toxic masculinity in the industry; as someone who is pushing the conversation forward, do you see positive changes?
Yes and no, I see a lot of toxic masculinity thriving in other ways, such as TikTok. There are loads of these awful people with awful views, bullying alternative or queer or progressive people by dueting their videos and making fun of them, but what is great is that there is a whole other cohort of people publicity outing and shaming them by replying to their replies. It feels like war but it’s good to see that people are not taking shit and really fighting back, that’s refreshing!