Rose & Loverboy: Tales of the City

Two shows, or designers, that couldn’t be more different, yet potentially similar, are Charles Jeffrey Loverboy and Martine Rose.

Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY Spring/Summer 2019 menswear show in London. Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION. 

The former is the darling of London Fashion Week, pioneer, polymath, and all-round performer. The latter an experienced and respected voice whose influence stretches across the channel and into Paris for the house of Balenciaga.

What they have in common is their inspiration source: their real worlds living in London and the subcultures that provide that backdrop (though perhaps it should really just be referred to as cultures).

Martine Rose, one of the original “streetwear” names in London fashion before it became fashionable or a commercial zeitgeist, an easy-win for new names starting out, did a brilliant collection, one of the best this season, in which she made a street in Kentish Town the catwalk – and so calling into question, really, what streetwear even is these days. Such has fashion blanketed its definition as to so vaguely group together the categories of sportswear, urbanwear, subculturalwear, casualwear, and the like.

Martine Rose Spring/Summer 2019 menswear show in London. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION. 

But this was that perfect eclectic mix. Blouses were ruffled and worn with Eighties jeans; there were bombers and fringing, leopard print and square-toed loafers, plaid shirts and striped shirts; striped trousers, denimwear, T-shirts, knits, and mini purses; great jewellery for guys and girls. “He’s hard to pin down, but what we do know is, he’s adored. He’s a bit of a geezer, really,” described the show notes. There were Nineties rave notes and Teddy Boy tones; it was the original notion of streetwear in action.

So often fashion invites you into its world; one which is often intangible. Rose, however, brought fashion into her world; one that is tangible, real.

And reality was the touchstone for Loverboy, too, as an antidote to the epidemic that is social anxiety via the internet et al. “We live in a decidedly two-dimensional age where surface impression become our inescapable reality,” his notes explained. “The body often becomes a site of contestation, if not outright battle – with digital filters, contouring cosmetics, and modern-day corsetry exerting wilful control over the unwilling natural body.” That’s quite the way to put it; it’s quite true. Whether it’s the invisible filters of the internet or the invisible filters of societal standards, we police ourselves constantly and put on our own psychological corsets.

Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY Spring/Summer 2019 menswear show in London. Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION. 

In a clever comment on all of this, Loverboy took off the filters, unlaced that corset and he celebrated them: the lumps and bumps we seek to be rid of through exercise (and, thematically, presumably the mundanities of life we seek to be rid of on Instagram) featuring here as part of the design, bulges of beauty. It was a clever way to package it – certainly given that catwalk’s assumed role as a place of aspiration, for once enabling us to aspire to a sense of reality (ironic, perhaps, given the setting: on entering the catwalk space, tinfoil constructions with performance artists plugged into them lay in wait on the ground).

But this was a much more wearable offering overall than we’re used to seeing from him; and it was bright and cheerful and fun – in stark contrast to the howling and growling that took place back in January for his winter show, as models stalked the catwalk to another performance audience besides press and buyers.

Optimism and drama, a choir in tinfoil hats, as well as his progression into something more staple – but which didn’t lose any of its original character either – made this a great sign-off to the season.