Tuesday 22nd June

| BY Paul Toner

Wales Bonner: Menswear SS22

“It’s always important to keep evolving and moving forward,” says Grace Wales Bonner, who yesterday opened up Paris Fashion Week with her most optimistic collection to date. The London-based designer has spent the past three seasons with a triptych of collections, which explored the cultural connections between Britain and the Caribbean. Touching on ’70s Lovers Rock, ’80s Jamaican dancehall culture, and Black British academia, the time-spanning trio cemented Wales Bonner as one of the finest luxury labels to operate within our shores.

The success of the three offerings has pushed the designer to slightly tweak her approach for SS22.  “I’ve been working for almost six years on the brand and I still feel like I’ve got quite a history and I’ve been exploring and working in a certain way for a long time,” she explains. “So in that sense, I have a confidence about what I’m doing and I don’t necessarily feel the need to always do things a certain way.”

She began looking at the photography of Sanlé Sory, who captured the eclectic characters of Burkina Faso’s nightlife through the 1970s. On the streets of Bobo-Dioulasso, Sory documented the flamboyant, free-spirited energy of the time, catalysed by musicians such as Volta Jazz; an orchestral cohort who pioneered the Bobo Yéyé genre.

Accompanying the collection with a Spotify playlist of 1970s/80s Burkinabe music, the rich soundscapes seep directly into the clothes. Wales Bonner lifts Japanese-inspired floral prints – inspired by a piece worn by one of Sory’s subjects – and pairs them alongside hallmarks of her namesake label, which includes lightweight tailoring with linen-striped sleeves and generously sized cargo trousers. This season sees the designer work with hand-woven Burkina Faso cotton, as well as West African jacquard, pairing gentle mohair knits and hybradised denim alongside airy summer dresses.

In her press release, Wales Bonner spoke of wanting to create elegant pieces which had room to dance in, whether that’s her signature suiting or her continued collaboration with Adidas Originals, which this season, extends to cropped yoga trousers. This is Wales Bonner at her most free-spirited, watch her soar.

Photography by Joshua Woods.