Wednesday 23rd September

| BY Paul Toner

Bianca Saunders: Menswear SS21

Like many Londoners, Bianca Saunders took a trip to the Barbican earlier this year to see Masculinities: Liberation Through PhotographyHere she was first introduced to The Ideal Man (1978), a series of portraits where artist Hans Eijkelboom asked various women what their ideal man looks like before proceeding to dress up as such characters. The central themes to the work are transferrable to Saunders’ own practice, which uses fluid, expertly cut menswear to explore identity and modern interpretations of Black masculinity.

Researching into Eijkelboom prompted the designer to begin questioning what her own ‘ideal’ man would look like. Coupled with her studies of the ballroom scene – in particular the House of Montana – the designer began venturing into how gender boundaries could be toyed with, “exploring the ‘in-between’ – not overtly masculine nor super feminine, but drawing on beauty from both sides,” explains the designer.

Relocating from her Brixton studio to a home set-up during the lockdown, Saunders adapted and advanced her traditional tropes and silhouettes, draping garments straight onto the mannequin. Shirts come slender or left boxy, equipped with Saunder’s signature strong shoulder. Ruching, another Saunders staple, is used to elevate Jamaican tourist T-shirts and a vegan leather bag that is lined with wiring which can be scrunched up into any shape you desire.

“[Lockdown] gave me more time to focus on being creative and doing research, rather than getting swept up in the day to day running of my business,” says Saunders – who worked with director Daniel Sannwald and on-going collaborator Saul Nash to bring to life her ballroom fantasy to life. Dividing her ‘ideal man’ into five categories – including Super Nerd at Dancehall Concert and Gangsta Pretending to be Corporate – The House of Saunders wore ribbed jersey vests with swooping necklines, slender suits and sleeveless denim jackets made in collaboration with Wrangler. Saunders called it her strongest collection to date – a uniform any ideal man would be proud to wear.

Directed by Daniel Sannwald, Photography by Silvia Draz.