Tuesday 29th September

| BY Paul Toner

Wales Bonner: Menswear SS21

Just before the global pandemic swept the globe, Grace Wales Bonner took a trip to Kingston, Jamaica. In between catching up with family, friends and loved ones, the former LVMH Prize winner paid a visit to The National Gallery to see an exhibition on Dancehall. Having already begun studying the genre’s immense cultural impact throughout the 1970s prior to her trip, the designer was introduced to a wealth of resources that kickstarted her ideas for spring/summer 2021.

Titled Essence, the designer’s latest co-ed offering is the second part to what will form a trilogy of collections. Following on from her Lovers Rock AW20 show held back in January – which looked to London’s second-generation Jamaican community in the 1970s – Wales Bonner continues her exploration of the connections between Britain and the Caribbean by pivoting her focus to Jamaica during the early 1980s, showing for the first time on the Paris Fashion Week schedule.

Alongside a look book shoot by Sean and Seng, the designer worked with director Jeano Edwards on Thinkin Home, a film that follows eight young men as they journey through the everyday. They wear elegant tunics, slender British tailoring and floor-length gowns crocheted with the colours of the Jamaican flag. This season sees the 29-year-old designer hone in on seventies sportswear, particularly interested in how British clothes are recontextualised and transformed once they ended up in the Caribbean. Continuing her collaboration with Adidas Originals, the designer produced streamline tracksuits in fuchsia and icey blues, as well as plum-coloured twinsets and ivory topstitched boots inspired by footy kits. 

Wales Bonner noted her inspirations for the collection in an accompanying zine, which featured Jason Evans and Simon Foxton’s photo series Strictly, as well as poetry from Michael Smith, the academic writing of Stuart Hall and photographs by Liz Johnson Arthur. Well rounded, intensely researched and beautifully understated, Wales Bonner creates clothes full of joy that make you stop and think.

Photography by Sean and Seng.