Wales Bonner: Menswear AW21
Today marked a closing chapter for Wales Bonner. AW21 was the final instalment to a triptych of collections that explored connections between Britain and the Caribbean. The journey began this time last year in London, with Lovers Rock – a collection that looked to London’s second-generation Jamaican community in the 1970s – followed by Thinkin Home, a film shot in Kingston, that explored dancehall’s influence in Jamaica a decade on.
This time around, the London-based visionary looked to Black academia, particularly the threads that connect Black British intellectualism with “a world of Caribbean thought”. Bonner called the collection Black Sunlight, captured in a film by Jamaican filmmaker Jeano Edwards – who also worked on Thinkin Home – that was shot between Kingston and Port Antonio in Jamaica and London’s Goodenough College. The clothes were inspired by Black academics who studied at Oxford University through the 1980s, “a real and radiant community of scholars, poets and artists from the Caribbean, India and West Africa, whose work and writings advanced postcolonial discourse,” as pointed out by the show notes.
Master tailors Anderson & Sheppard were called in to help create blazers adorned with boating stripes, shown alongside a chorus of great outerwear that included leather jackets with shearling collars, heavy navy overcoats and both a track top and slender anorak made in collaboration with Adidas. (Models also wore three-striped trainers, a glimpse to next season’s footwear collaboration between the two brands.) The collegiate-style present gave a nod to the designer’s AW19 offering, which looked to the students at Howard University in the eighties, America’s first Black university.
Where Bonner’s talent lies in is her ability to translate intellectual explorations of the Black experience – both past and present – into deeply poetic collections that are steeped in emotion and an unshakable tenderness. And she does so with ease.
Photography by Sean and Sang.