“Dedicated to each and every one inna di area,” Wales Bonner proclaimed in the show notes that accompanied her autumn/winter 20 presentation, Lover’s Rock. More than a show, this was a homecoming, referencing her family, the sights, sounds and stories she grew up with. While previous seasons have seen her immerse herself in academia and retrace physical, spiritual and emotional journeys from Africa, this season saw the British-Jamaican designer place her sartorial filter over the memories of those closest to her.
Reflecting the experiences of her father, Grace rooted the collection in 70s London, specifically the lovers rock and dub reggae music scenes that sprung from underground house parties in the capital. “Lovers Rock was created by second generation Jamaicans in this country, their own kind of sweet mix of reggae and soul,” she explained back in January. “This is a reflection of my family on my father’s side, my grandad came from Jamaica in the 1950s, my dad used to work on Lewisham Road, and I found these documentary photographs by John Goto of teenagers at Lewisham Youth Club in the 70s,” she added.
From the moment she graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2014, a softness and sensitivity has drawn the industry deeper and deeper into Wales Bonner’s world. As she’s travelled through time and across continents and cultures, her narrative-stitched designs continually manage to playfully pause the usual blink-and-you’ll-miss-them blur of boys and, instead, we lose ourselves in her carefully crafted collections. From her L’Oréal Professional Talent Award-winning graduate collection, entitled Afrique, shown on a cast of black male models through to her LVMH Prize win in 2016, to her first institutional exhibition, A Time for New Dreams at London’s Serpentine Gallery last year, Grace’s work has continually addressed the politics of identity, sexuality, and race through projects that delicately balance multinationalism with a sense of personal subjectivity.
Almost as much an artist, ethnographer, poet, and academic as she is a fashion designer, Wales Bonner is a cultural polymath who sees fashion as an intuitive means to understand a multiplicity of perspectives, proposing a distinct notion of luxury, via a hybrid of European and Afro-Atlantic approaches. For autumn/winter 20, five years after her London Fashion Week debut with Fashion East men’s, the designer showed just how far she’s come by returning home, weaving together literary and musical references that were directly inspired by her own family history, with exceptional craftsmanship to produce a collection that explores 70s subcultures from the perspective of Caribbean youth in London. Within this, she placed the Wales Bonner lens over adidas’ sporting and lifestyle heritage, blending timeless aesthetics with elevated, elegant sportswear aesthetics.
“It was amazing to get into the archive with adidas, and really study how it has been interpreted by different cultures across times,” Wales Bonner explains as the collaboration launches at LN-CC. “I was interested in elevating the familiar, and bringing an eveningwear and tailored sensibility to this essential collection.”
Central to the apparel offering is a trio of hybrid adidas tracksuits, each one rooted in the classic 3-Stripes trademark and reimagined with craft details – synonymous with Wales Bonner – such as crochet stripes and oversized ribbing. Bob Marley was undeniably on the mood board. Elsewhere a yellow long sleeve football jersey, multicolour knit roll and soft cotton tees with satin sleeves each elevate memories of the 70s. For footwear, the collection features Wales Bonner’s take on the SL72 silhouette and two different versions of the iconic adidas Samba sneaker. Three stripe classics, reconsidered.
While adidas by Wales Bonner launches alongside with a visual campaign shot by long term collaborator Harley Weir as well as a film by Durimel, we invited London-based photographer Raphael Bliss to shoot Eritrea-born model Benyam in the LN-CC studio.