Grace Wales Bonner is a fashion designer who creates with a soft-edge. Known for dousing FKA Twigs in Swarovski crystals and her culturally rich menswear collection, the Central Saint Martins graduate is redefining men’s fashion. Her latest body of work, the AW16 Collection aptly named Spirituals, offers an elevated gaze honoring the black quest for identity and Wales Bonner’s personal connection to that journey. The daughter of an English woman and Jamaican man, Grace stumbled across a sense of confusion and misplacement that those of us who are mixed race and/or “light skin” are frequently met with: the dilemma of not being white enough nor black enough to find a sense of belonging.
Grace casts an elegant lens on the male form. She creates smooth silhouettes and uses jewels as ornate details to elevate her models to regal kings. When one is wearing a piece from Spirituals, they are gliding, drifting through dimensions of the human and the holy. Models become royalty, clothing becomes religious. This defiant yet understated transition is the dynamism of Grace Wales Bonner’s designs.
Spirituals’ show notes describe the collection as, “a meditation on black spirituality, a current that flows from the ancient past and carries us away on a journey to a future way out beyond the galaxies.” Rich prose aside, these words offer a sophisticated bite at fashion’s white-washed history. In Grace’s show, melanin was the norm and the word “exoticism” didn’t exist. Her work is a celebration of black beauty, black history and black spirituality. Yet, she honors this celebration without overt politicism. The statement is there, but so is the celebration. And thank god for that – black culture is something to be celebrated, again and again, in the most lavish of fashions.