London Women’s Fashion Week F/W 2019 Highlight: Wales Bonner

With London shows done and the sad news regarding Karl Lagerfeld on every fashion mind, we are off to Milan and Arbesser and Gucci, and, and, and. But here is one London highlight we want to share.

Wales Bonner F/W 2019

London is full of designers who see fashion very differently. Their approach is not about merchandise and selling but more about a sociological point of view and how their fashion interacts with day-to-day lives. Let’s be clear, Achtung Digital understands fashion as an arm of sociology before anything else. No matter how shallow or laughable some of the outcome is. Grace Wales Bonner has quietly positioned herself at the forefront of designers who stand for this “sociological” movement. Her clothes look good, are well made but the context she puts them in is what really makes them stand out. In our eyes very much in the tradition of the great and recently diseased Joe Casely-Hayford who channeled his roots into his clothes and carved out a niche for African intellectualism just like the mixed race Bonner does. The foundation of her work is about tradition, researching and then putting a fresh spin as in this American 1980’s college inspired wardrobe. Her impressive take over of the revered Serpentine Gallery – also a sign that curator Hans Ulrich Obrist’s radar is still as acute as ever – led to this show in the Gallery in Hyde Park. Currently Wales Bonner holds an exhibit there called “A Time for New Dreams” on view until the 17th March, 2019 about mysticism, ritual and magic manifesting itself in aesthetics. In a way establishing her as a serious artist and that’s where she held her show.

For last Sunday’s event, Bonner also included her women’s wear and activated the space with poetry readings about race musings. Coming back from New York, where the black facing scandal in fashion and politics was talk of the moment, it was striking that not a single designer addressed the race inequality issue, which is looming over Donald Trump’s presidency. In London on the other hand, it’s refreshing to see this discourse as natural part of the fashion world.

Words matter?

The show was called “Mumbo Jumbo” taking its title from Ishmael Reed’s 1972 novel. Writer Ben Okri recited a poem he had written for Wales Bonner while the show was on using the collection in the role of writers as oracles and safe keepers of ancestral wisdom. Words were woven into cloth and placed on garments.  

Words could be found in various colors on sweaters and shirts.

What stood out?

Bonner has a good understanding of how to cut a suit. Her roomy and extra volume white, double-breasted jacket at the end of the show did not feel like a gimmicky idea but a fresh interpretation of what the silhouette of a classic jacket like this can be like.

Simple suits with oversized silhouettes were key pieces in the collection.

The details?

Ishmael Reed’s name was emblazoned on the opening look, a hybrid of an African tunic and American football jersey. There was a gabardine Macintosh coat with tortoiseshell buttons bringing the Caribbean to life. Tweeds and herringbone were adorned with feathers instilling a voodoo vibe. Polo shirts embroidered with logos inspired by Haitian religious symbols. Flipped-up collars lined with souvenir scarves from Jamaica. These clothes are subtle but thoughtful.

The extraordinary details made the easy pieces of the collection so special.

Her new muscle?

Not many designers get to work with cult shoe designer Manolo Blahnik who was in the audience with his friend Robert Forrest but her backless brogues were original Manolos.

The brogues were just another highlight from the F/W presentation.