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Wales Bonner and Adidas

Behind The Badge: Wales Bonner

A slight insight into the new British classic designer…

Words By: Beth Bennett | Images Courtesy Of: Wales Bonner / Wales Bonner

Grace Wales Bonner graduated from the world-renowned Central Saint Martins in 2014. Her graduate showcase collection ‘Afrique’ was awarded the prestigious L’Oréal Professional Talent Award, a sure-fire sign of the inevitable greatness to come. In this first collection, the foundations of Grace Wales Bonner’s unique approach to menswear began to show. Growing up in Southeast London to an English mother and Jamaican father, Grace remarks she was hyperaware of her mixed heritage and it spurred a deep, diasporic self-exploration. This initial blending of European high fashion with the spirit of Afro-Atlantic heritage became the definitive ethos of her postgrad brand. The clothing evokes a fascinating perspective on the rich history of the African diaspora, a whole celebratory one that, though disciplined and refined, is full of love for the culture itself. 

Wales bonner and adidas

The blending of these traditionally Western European styles with the thudding heart of African influence is both proof of her own journey to rationalising her relationship with both cultures as it is her pushing the boundaries for the Euro-Centric high fashion of today. In an interview with The Guardian, Grace Wales Bonner states:  “It’s working out how I could be and that I didn’t need to prove anything to be who I was…I have to be between places, because that’s a creative space for me. It’s the foundation of what I’m doing, a meeting and collision of cultures.”

This then lends itself to the framing of Wales Bonner clothes, the quietly subversive nature of how masculinity is presented. As her collections develop, one can sense the keenness to which she’s evoking a gentler representation of black men. The cinched waist and angled shoulders of the garments, along with the array of colour spectrum, softens the silhouette and with it defies the expectation of black men both to themselves and to the colonial prejudice. Wales Bonner understands the role of the fashion designer in the broader cultural context, looking at the impact of her work in the wider picture of society and interrogating her own role within it. The evolution of her collections is a demonstration of her challenging herself to find those in-between places and invite others into them, to find their creativity, their style, and their sense of self, in hybridity.