Charles Jeffrey’s Milan debut took place inside a twisted, immersive underworld
By Alex James Taylor | Fashion | 16 January 2023

Welcome to The Engine, Charles Jeffrey’s brilliant and twisted FW23 narrative. For the British designer’s Milan debut, he fashioned an immersive underworld populated by fantastical characters.

A trilogy, first we were introduced to The Workers. Wrapped in protective, layers of tailoring, wild ruffles, graphic knits and belted jackets, this downtrodden community work endlessly feeding the furnaces, “keeping the heavenly floating city of Ajuka from falling out of the sky.” Their faces smudged with soot, their trinkets reminiscent of those scavenged and crafted by mudlarkers along the River Thames.

Then there are The Posers, former workers elevated to Ajuka, who spend their time in the city’s luxury boutiques. You’ll distinguish them by their ornate printed garments decorated with artwork by John Byrne (more on him later), debonair suiting and oversized details. Tartan fizzes like pop and overblown proportions provide theatrical flair. Finally, we meet The Snakes – Ajuka’s “arch gossip merchants who disseminate the city’s news.” Wearing their trade, newspaper cuttings (the brilliantly named ‘The Scottish Basic’) are fashioned into exquisite couture looks. Read all about it! Headlines worn loud and clear like otherworldly town criers.

Prior to the show, Jeffrey took HERO through his satirical narrative, outlining the significance of Scottish artist and playwright John Byrne. “I’d never resonated so much with someone’s work before,” Jeffrey told us. “He’s from a different period, he was born in 1940 but all the things he did married quite a lot with my upbringing: we’re both from working-class backgrounds, he saved to go to art school and developed himself. He has this amazing body of work which focuses on the subcultures of 50s Teddy Boys and magical, mythical paganistic scenes, plus The Slab Boys is an amazing colloquial play on words. I was really inspired by that and I wanted to respond to it with my own world.” While Byrne’s 1987 Slab Boys play inspired the narrative, his own personal style filtered into the collection; Fairisle knits, louche suits, tweeds and neck scarves.

Ambitious, twisted, brilliant – it’s a five-star review for Charles Jeffrey’s opening night in Milan.

GALLERYCatwalk images from Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY MENS-FALL-WINTER-23