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Grace Wales Bonner AW15
Grace Wales Bonner AW15Photography Philip Trengove

Grace Wales Bonner at Fashion East AW15

A captivating and unique vision of masculinity and excess, inspired by tender portrayals of black men in 19th century art

Initial reaction:

Grace Wales Bonner's “black symphony” played like a fine-tuned orchestra building upon her history-infused SS15 collection. It would not have been startling if the MC from Paris is Burning shouted from the wings: “Opulence. You. Own. Everything!”

Look rich or die in crushed velvet:

Crushed velvet embroidered with cowrie shells (once used as an African currency) in deep tones of mushroom, chocolate and indigo spearheaded Bonner’s vision of excess, which she titled Ebonics. “It was meant to be excessive and abundant; I wanted it to feel very rich,” the English-Jamaican designer explained backstage. “This collection was quite historical, going further in to the history of how black people were represented in paintings in the 19th century, and how that manifests itself today. It’s about looking back and then, looking forward.”

Jumping off the canvas:

Framed by a backdrop of a sky at dusk and perched on a bedrock of black sand, her models looked like painterly muses for Carl Van Vechten’s sensual portraits of homosexuality. “There’s a Bonnat painting that I really like – “The Barber of Suez” – which was just about the softness of a boy and the gentleness of a relationship between two men,” Bonner explains. “That gentle representation of black people that I don’t think I see so much – that’s what I’m trying to push for.” 

“I was drawn to that idea of performing blackness, owning identity in an unapologetic way.” – Read our recent interview with Wales Bonner here.