Benvenuti a Milano, Carlo! The latest exile from London’s denuded menswear runway landscape touched down in Milan’s Navigli with an audience-galvanizing bang tonight. Charles Jeffrey has taken investment from locally based fashion incubator Tomorrow but said that he could just as easily have shown in Paris with that cash, or even stayed in London. However he added that the Northern soul, tram-tracks, and can-do spirit of this dirty old town—not to mention its nightlife—reminded him of Glasgow and inspired him to give it a whirl. “This feels like the perfect city.”
The audience, including unofficial mentor Francessco Risso, rose and howled approval at the end of a highly-characterized, deeply thought through, and fundamentally subversive exploration of identity through costume. Inspired by artist and playwright John Byrne’s 1987 work The Slab Boys Trilogy, Jeffrey had fashioned a Dantean class system of characters represented through clothing.
The first groups were the “workers,” carrying paraffin lamps, bearing garments stamped with potato sacks and declaring flag-borne standards that echoed Byrne’s paintings. The second were the posers, who wore emphasized suiting in politically patterned textiles, powerfully subversed tartans, and knitwear embedded with stones and sundries Jeffrey had sourced while mudlarking on London’s river Thames. The third section was unflatteringly termed The Snakes and its members disseminated news, a characteristic that was not something to celebrate but which shouted in balderdash headlines from standout, splashy looks. Witty and lightly worn subversion marinated every look. The Loverboy has found his town.