Sunday 21st February

| BY Paul Toner

Bianca Saunders: Menswear AW21

Since founding her eponymous label in 2017, Bianca Saunders has carved herself as a multihyphenate. Whilst the Coronavirus pandemic has forced many of her London-based contemporaries to dabble in new mediums to show their collections, film and collaboration has been a pillar of her business since the jump. You’ll know this if you paid a visit to the exhibition she curated at Brixton Market in October 2019, which celebrated the power of her creative community here in the capital. Or if you found yourself in Paris over the summer, you might’ve stumbled upon Drawing a Blank – the group art show Saunders contributed to by feeding wire-framing into a jacket and a pair of trousers, which were suspended from the air (their folds and creases reminiscent of the designer’s signature ruching).

“Being able to spend time outside of fashion really refreshed why I wanted to start the brand,” explains Saunders, who says the show in Paris, alongside the Man Ray and Erwin Wurm exhibitions she saw whilst in the city, pushed her to take a surrealist approach to her AW21 collection. Still rooted in her language of tailoring, this season – titled Superimposed – is a definite step-up for the designer, coming from a place of confidence on the back of her GucciFest entry. Her technical creasing is more sculptural, with a black mac and a blue Oxford shirt appearing to be caught in a flash of movement. A similar technique is applied to trousers, which are scrunched and indented at the knee, as if made of paper.

Alongside these more conceptual pieces, Saunders tackles a gaggle of other menswear staples, with both a bomber and Harrington jacket, as well as a houndstooth tweed overcoat, now elevated via Saunders’ sunken-shoulder technique and boxy proportions. Directly inspired by Erwin Wurm’s stretched-fabric imagery, the designer began overlocking production off-cuts to make her own textiles – also working with Wrangler to superimpose a photograph of wrinkled denim across jeans and a tote bag, creating a trompe-l’œil effect.

“I think this is the most creative I’ve been in a long time,” Saunders adds, and the collection’s film is a testament to that. Working once more with director Daniel Sannwald, a black-and-white, rapid-fire clip – inspired by Jean Cocteau’s 1930 film The Blood of a Poet – is Saunders’ way of seeking creativity in “both the surreal and real world.” As the two seemingly live as one in this odd moment of time we find ourselves in, Saunders is forging fashion’s new tomorrow.

Photography by Silvia Draz.