The designer’s latest collection, unveiled at Men’s Fashion Week in Paris, journeys to Burkina Faso in the 1970s.
London’s Grace Wales Bonner is a singular talent in today’s top fashion echelons. Britain-born and of Jamaican descent, her eponymous label has become a galvanizing force since its launch in 2014. Wales Bonner’s thoughtful and thoroughly researched studies of the African diaspora and Black identity have helped to broaden and evolve the conversation around menswear on a global level. While Wales Bonner launched as a menswear brand it now offers all-gender pieces. Using beautifully tailored garments as a means to tell stories, her poignant commentaries on decade-spanning cultural shifts, on sexuality (particularly masculinity) and on societal linkages have spurred industry-wide discourse about what, exactly, fashion’s role is in both setting and shifting the tides.
Following a just-finished trilogy of seasons in which Wales Bonner explored transatlantic bonds between England and the Caribbean, she has now looked to Burkina Faso and the Burkinabé photographer Ibrahima Sory Sanlé. His 1960s and 1970s-era portraiture — from studio shots to live music documentation — captures a nation and its people in emergence — Burkina Faso gained its independence from France in 1960 — and often joy. Below, Wales Bonner discusses the image-maker’s influence, how her discipline has evolved (including through the Covid-19 pandemic), and how materials can not only be visually satisfying, but also, emotionally resonant.