Grace Wales Bonner: In search of Créolité
Without doubt, the most important show of the London menswear season has to be Grace Wales Bonner, the LVMH Prize winner of two years ago; whose fall-winter 2018 collection was a wonderful study in the dislocation of exile from the Caribbean.
Her latest show, staged at 9 Grosvenor Place in Belgravia in a disused townhouse, worked on every level. The collection was sleek and beautiful, the vision clean and precise, the editing impeccable.
The purity of her tailoring – from the gently transgressive pants suits cut with naval cadet jackets and classic sailor's pants, gently finished with slits and perfectly placed buttons, to the brilliant, rather off-center tuxedos – was unimpeachable.
Wales Bonner also mingled in some exotic prints from an immigration series by Afro-American painter Jacob Lawrence, who worked for the US Coast Guard in the 1940s. These looked like camouflage but were, on closer inspection, colorful paintings of crowds in the West Indies.
There was also an overriding sense of pleasure in witnessing the beautiful assemblage of Western naval uniforms and gentlemanly codes with Caribbean proportions and hues.
“One of the main things I was thinking of was Aimé Césaire’s book Notebook of a Return to the Native Land. This going away from your native island to study in Paris and then coming back. And his perspective of what that felt like. Looking at an island from a distance and seeing what that felt like. The landscape and the way people behave and for me trying to find out what the Créole aesthetic should look like,” quietly explained the petite Wales Bonner backstage.
Above all, Wales Bonner has a singular vision, a gentle sartorial investigation of black dignity, presented on a cast that were all in various hues of that color. Since winning her award in Paris, Wales Bonner has gone on to be the recipient of hugely positive reviews. This show will only further enhance her reputation.
Wales Bonner is a proper fashion intellectual, who uses fashion as an artistic vehicle to express very definite ideas. She cited over a dozen authors in her program, including Derek Walcott, the Nobel Prize winning poet from St Lucia whose whole oeuvre is about the displacement of exile.
“I guess I was thinking about Créole identity and there is a sense of unresolvedness about that. And that’s something I identify with. Seeing a place that you are distant from yet think of romantically,” she told FashionNetwork.com post show.
No wonder the place was packed with art stars from Yana Peel, the CEO of the Serpentine Gallery, to Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, the noted artist who only paints and draws black people, to gallery owner Maureen Paley. Their antenna was perfect, since this was a bona fide fashion moment.
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