Fashion
  • Text Joey Levenson
  • 15th June 2017

Blue duets

Since London-born designer Grace Wales Bonner won the coveted LVMH prize in June of 2016, her show has become one of the most anticipated of London Fashion Week Men’s. From past collections, we’ve come to expect quasi-feminine sex appeal in her work, usually found in her influence of 20th century West African fashion fads against the cinched waists of demi-couture Savile Row blazers, trousers, and shirts. Her work naturally draws from her own Jamaican and South London heredities, using her identity as a launch pad from where she can gracefully explore cultural and social narratives.

Her show this season saw guests stand in an expansive space that felt reminiscent of the traditional Jamaican dancehall – most notably popularised in Brixton and Stockwell during the late 70s. The subject? A reflection on James Baldwin/Jim Brown and the Children, an essay by Hilton Als that pays tribute to artistic expressions of sexuality influenced by queer black perspectives.

The show followed a character’s 24-hour journey; from the darker confines of work hours into the sensual hedonism of the Paris night. The earlier phase saw the classical shirts and blazers that have become synonymous with Bonner’s output, but with more refrain from structured feminine silhouettes. Among a sea of dark colour palettes, she optioned for square-based shapes with her shirts and greater movement with trousers and shorts. And as the blue night descended, structure gave way to fluid linens and silks, symbolising movement and magnetism. Elsewhere, Chris Ofili’s Blue Biceps, a drawing from 2005 exploring masculine interracial relationships, appeared on a black sleeveless vest paired with slim leather trousers.

It was refreshing to witness a natural evolution in Bonner’s work, as the designer focussed less on juxtapositions between Europe and Africa. In the process, she found a harmonious amalgamation of global masculinity rooted in her own cultural identity.