The interrogation of luxury and Eurocentricity explored in this collection extends itself to a world that’s long been considered the pinnacle of elitism: the University space.
By Madison Huizinga
By embracing an array of cultural influences and melding European and Afro-Atlantic methods, Wales Bonner asserts critical discussion about transnationality and post-colonialism through fashion. The brand skillfully wields an assortment of artistic and intellectual modes, such as critical theory, literature, and history, to disrupt classical images of affluence and leisure in a myriad of spaces. Wales Bonner facilitates a voyage through time and space, in an effort “to elevate the location of Blackness within culture and infuse European luxury with an Afro-Atlantic spirit.”
Grace Wales Bonner, the mastermind behind Wales Bonner, launched the brand in 2014 after graduating from Central Saint Martins. In the few years after her brand launch, Bonner received a number of accolades, including Emerging Menswear Designer at the British Fashion Awards and the LVMH Young Designer Prize for her first solo runway presentation “Ezekiel.” She collaborated with Dior to reimagine the New Look silhouette for the Resort 2020 collection shortly before winning the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund. Her AW21 collection is a continued partnership with Adidas Originals.
Bonner’s latest collection, Black Sunlight, largely centers on the strands of connection between the Caribbean and Britain. The AW21 collection harkens back to the 1980s, alluding to Caribbean scholars who traveled to Britain for their studies. Fittingly, the daywear and leisurewear in this collection occupy a retro aesthetic that has remained relevant for decades. Smart silhouettes and timeless frames offer an air of tailored elegance, incorporating utilitarian fabrics and drawing on uniforms of the working world. The wardrobe is a passport to dignified refinement while retaining spirited character.
The interrogation of luxury and Eurocentricity explored in this collection extends itself to a world that’s long been considered the pinnacle of elitism: the University space. Preppy tweed sets, warm knitted scarves, and solid stripes exude a language representative of class. Yet, eclectic sartorialism interrupts the conventional, Oxford-esque fits. Internal disruption of opulence. A customary tailored presentation flipped inside out.
Bonner extends her artistry even further, weaving in inspiration from Indian and West African styles of dress. 70s-influenced shearling coats stand amongst airy dresses with patterns inspired by Indian wood block paisley. West African-inspired dashikis, cashmere cardigans, and tailored trousers all display parallel stripes. The fusing and intermittence nod to expansion, resistance to cultural essentialism.
Yet, eclectic sartorialism interrupts the conventional, Oxford-esque fits.
Wales Bonner presses viewers to examine where they situate “luxury” and whether or not it’s divorced from vibrancy, leisure, and tradition. An expedition through decades and cultures that may seem disparate on the surface, but upon closer examination, aren’t quite so.