Singing The Blues at Wales Bonner Spring / Summer 2018
LONDON, United Kingdom – Grace Wales Bonner is a woman of many reference points and she will readily admit it. Her latest runway show Blue Duets SS18 held at Swiss Church in London was firmly placed in the tenets that shaped her rise as a serial award-winning fashion designer following her graduation from Central Saint Martins in 2014.
A subtle blend of sexuality and subversion of the status quo, Wales Bonner undoubtably has a point of view. The Wales Bonner men are comfortable and proud, daring but also humble. The Wales Bonner men are interesting in their own right, not only as models, but also as fellow artists, curators, and choreographers. It is the combination of the men walking within a space that transforms the onlooking audience, not one singular piece of fashion confection. That is the power of her young label; it celebrates a widening lens on masculinity and style beyond the usual (and typical Western) tropes.
In a recently published article with British Esquire, she shared, “I love that moment where we take responsibility for our own representation.” As one whose previous five collections have taken titular reference from black cultural identity including Ebonics AW15, Malik SS16, Spirituals AW16, Ezekiel SS17, and Spirituals II AW17, Bonner does not shy away from tackling historical and modern black ideology and thought. With a personal and deep fascination of the 1970s, her collections share a curious thread, harkening to a time of her own father's transition from Jamaica to the United Kingdom, but also to a time of freedom and fluidity along the lines of gender and expression.
Critically, she expressed, “And with design now, I want to show how to execute those ideas at a different level. I want it to be coming from that black cultural perspective, but then considered at the same level as any other kind of luxury or European brand. That’s the ambition. Because there isn’t a luxury designer that I can think of who draws on these exact influences and raises it all the way. There’s an ease and a comfortableness and an emotion I aim to have in the clothes.”
Speaking of the clothes, Bonner's collection of tailoring and separates offered equal measure of ease and emotion. One linen viscose shirt featured a drawing 'Blue Biceps' (2005) by British-Nigerian artist Chris Ofili while a cotton t-shirt boasted a Carl Van Vechten print tucked into paneled jeans. The blue tinged interconnected spaces gave way to men wearing cotton and linen pieces paired with ice white cargo jeans and jackets. A black double face wool and satin tuxedo jacket coupled with cycling shorts was a refreshing take on a more formal look. Her partnership with Manolo Blahnik produced crocodile stamped mules and plenty of other enviable footwear to take one stomping through the city streets. With Bonner, the artistic references will surely abound, but it is the clothing she makes for men to live and breathe that makes her a success.