Earning personal commendations from the Dean for her dissertation whilst at Central St Martins and winning the L’Oreal Professionel Talent Award 2014 for her graduate collection titled ‘Afrique’, Grace Wales Bonner is no stranger to recognition. Inspired by representations of black culture from the 19th century to present day, Wales Bonner’s menswear designs enrapture and excite her audience. Impressively mixing couture techniques with traditional African crafts comes naturally to the English/Jamaican designer; her multi-cultural background enables her to examine cross-cultural fusion and masculinity expertly through her designs. Her presentation at the prestigious Fashion In Motion presentation (previous designers include Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier) proved that not only does she excel at creating divine opulence; she is also a master of menswear tailoring and challenging notions of authentic black masculinity.
Wales Bonner said “The V&A feels like the perfect space to present the hybridity in cultural representation”, which she has examined with her Fashion East MAN-supported AW15 collection titled ‘Ebonics’. With inspiration taken from exoticism and 19th century depictions of black men, and artists Kerry James Marshall and Melvin Van Peebles, Wales Bonner’s AW15 collection was an eclectic mix of old and new black culture. Featuring crushed velvet with traditional cowrie shell embellishments, high-waisted flares and intricate neckpieces, Wales Bonner’s collections represent her exploration of European and African luxury, her interest in the 70’s blaxploitation genre and how she uses this research as a way of learning about her heritage.
Oriole Cullen, the Fashion In Motion curator said “her designs are not only beautifully crafted but also conceived from important concepts and themes”, proving that Wales Bonner’s work is not only bold, lavish and beautiful, but an important step in appreciating and celebrating black culture and creativity in menswear.
Words by Annie Lunnon
TagsAfrique, Annie Lunnon, Central St. Martins, fashion in motion, Grace Wales Bonner, Oriole Cullen, V&A, Victoria and Albert Museum,