Grace Wales Bonner is an emerging menswear designer who recently graduated from Central Saint Martins in London, United Kingdom.
What makes her stand out from the millions of artists that are nowadays working in the fashion industry is the fact that she takes inspiration from meaningful concepts and themes when creating those beautifully crafted pieces.
Her Spring Summer 2015 graduate collection is named Afrique and it is inspired by Nigerian culture, celebrating black self-representation, and “working inside established frames of reference to create something new”.
It deals with real people who are proud of their heritage, who are not ashamed to show themselves, who fight to preserve their own individuality.
Her capacity and skills were rewarded soon after its launch, indeed she won the 2014 L’Oreal Professional Designer of the Year prize.
Her talent in design alongside with her determination to work hard and succeed were additionally confirmed in January, when she presented her Fall Winter 2015 collection – entitled Ebonics – at Fashion East, which is known for announcing next British prodigies.
Her reputation was furthermore increased after the presentation of her creations at the Victoria and Albert museum on April 2015 as part of the “Fashion in Motion” series.
The initial stimulus comes again from black visual culture and African crafts: being born by an English mother and a Jamaican father, she in fact loves exploring her origins and crossing cultural hybridity. As she announced in one of the interviews, the V&A felt like the perfect space to present her works.
More precisely, she was this time influenced by African luxury fashion and its couture techniques. Her works are characterized by a meticulous attention to details and the presence of numerous embellishements comprising Swarovski crystals and intricate pieces of jewellery.
As a result she presents very high quality garments with beautiful handcrafted embroideries while the style ends up being super ethnical and without any exact inclination of gender – which makes the collection more wearable for a wider public.
Even worldwide-renowned brands sometimes use cultures as their main inspiration for the collections they create: indeed this is what happened with Dior many years ago, under the direction of fashion designer John Galliano.
It was January 2004 and the Spring Couture collection came out in Paris, France. The idea for the show this time came from Egypt and more specifically the Valley of the Kings, Cairo, Aswan and Luxor.
As reported on Vogue Runway “The result was a gilded fantasia that used every treasure available to the couture ateliers—gold leaf, lapis lazuli–hued snake, silver lamé, coral beading—to reference everything from Nefertiti and King Tut to hieroglyphs and tomb paintings.”
The fitting reminded the ones of sarcophagis and the shape obtained in the end was what Galliano called The sphinx line which is elongated, tight, attenuated, elegant.
The main characteristics of the garments were an eccessive use of gold and silver as colours, big volumes and overblown silhouettes.
The final look was furthermore completed with numerous embroideries such as crystal-encrusted jewelry and huge headdresses while models wore notable hairstyles and face painting for make-up.
Many celebrities were also attending the event – including American actress Sarah Jessica Parker – and considering the public’s amazed reaction the collection proved to be a success.
Time has passed away since that show, however it should be remembered as an example of achievement because of John’s ability to dig into the past, find a major culture and bring it back to life by creating something new.
Nowadays the brand is working with Italian fashion designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, who was announced to be the creative director in July 2016 and who made her debut last October in Paris with the Fall 2017 ready-to-wear collection. She has studied in IED (Rome), she has worked for Valentino many years and she is actually “the first woman to lead the creative side in the label’s 69-year history”.