Grace Wales Bonner Presentation “Malik”

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Denim leisure suits, high-waist bell bottoms, thick velvets and headdresses are some of the signatures of 24-year-old menswear designer Grace Wales Bonner. Hailing from South East London, it was certainly a change of scenery from attending a more conventional menswear fashion showcase. Bonner stood out as she did away with the “traditional” menswear styles of suits, blazer, designer trouser and went for a more nostalgic ’70s vibe. In her latest presentation entitled, Malikwhich sought to shift the ideas of blackness, Bonner has indeed absorbed her love of ’70s Blaxploitation, and the “charming clutter of markets in Dakar” to explore the intersections between cultures. Being of Jamaican and English decent, Bonner has struggled with her own identity growing up in London and felt that identity and how we chose to define it was very important. She states that her work mimics her interest in changing black male identity in the fashion industry, to push the envelop beyond streetwear.

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For this collection, Bonner traveled to Dakar, Senegal with photographer Harley Weir and i-D‘s fashion editor Julia Sarr-Jamois to capture the essence of her designs in real time. The photographs were taken at Lake Retba, which was a used as a reflection of the beauty from Senegal. On her experience Bonner states, “Obviously we had to be sensitive to the Senegalese culture, but it’s about being super comfortable with your sexuality, your mentality and how something is perceived as masculine or feminine.” She also reveals that her collection was named after Malik Ambar, who was sold as a slave when he was a child in the 16th century. This presentation was released at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Graces wishes, aims and works to dispel the idea that black men look “street.”

Grace hopes to become a designer label and that the massive amount of acclaim she’s received for her collections will create a trend in redefining menswear and black masculinity. Her hope is that you can walk into a store and see the menswear section completely revamped. Check out the cool visual for the “Malik” project below via i-D:

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