Grace Wales Bonner is one of contemporary fashion’s great storytellers. Using clothes and their presentation as her medium, she tells stories that explore race, colonialism and diaspora – her SS16 ‘Malik’ collection was prime example.
“It explores the story of Malik Ambar an Ethiopian ex-slave who moved to Western India and became a grand ruler there,” she explains in a recent interview with Dazed. “It’s about transition, displacement and cultural mirroring between Africa and India, particularly the African diaspora across the Indian Ocean.”
In a new series of images, Wales Bonner has teamed up with Jamie Morgan, the photographer and filmmaker who co-founded the Buffalo collective, for Canadian online retailer SSENSE. Together with his collaborators Ray Petri, Mitzi Lorenz, Roger Charity and Marc Lebon, they translated punk’s DIY ethic into fashion image making, creating a look or an “attitude” that defined the 1980s.
The images capturing Wales Bonner’s SS16 collection and bear resemblance to the “straight-up” portraits made by Morgan and co during that time. King Owusu, who is one of designer’s muses, stars in these pictures modelling the collection’s crisp linen shirts, cropped denim jackets and crushed velvet trousers, along with the Swarovski crystal and cowrie shell skull cap piece.
“I really enjoyed working with Grace, she has real integrity as a designer,” says Morgan. “I felt we had a lot in common, like an uncompromising attention to detail. Her references, especially when it comes to black culture are really inspiring. She looks at black heritage from a deep cultural standpoint. She celebrates and respects black culture, instead of stealing from it, as many do. Grace designs beautiful clothes but beyond that, we share the same passion for a great photographic image that has meaning beyond just fashion.”
Created for SSENSE, the pictures accompany a “video portrait” of Owusu, which will be premiered on the retailer’s website today.