Models present creations from fashion brand Wales Bonner during a catwalk show on the second day of the Autumn/Winter 2020 London Fashion Week Men's, in London on Sunday. — AFP/VNA Photo
LONDON — At just 29, Grace Wales Bonner is one of London's most promising designers, exploring black male identity through her eponymous menswear brand with looks that have caught the eye of celebrities such as Meghan Markle.
Wales Bonner, the daughter of a Jamaican father and English mother, unveiled her 2020 autumn/winter collection on Sunday at London Fashion Week Men's, with a clear nod to her Caribbean roots.
"My grandfather came to London in the fifties so it is about the second generation who grew up in London" in the 1970s, she told AFP.
"I was really interested in the youth community and how people embrace British traditions but also how they perform their identities or connections to the Caribbean.
"It is also looking to the multiculturalism in Britain at that time."
Dubbed Lovers Rock, from the name of a style of romantic reggae born in the British capital and popular in the 1970s and 1980s, her collection was partly inspired by the photographer John Goto.
Goto captured the British African-Caribbean community of Lewisham, in southeast London, in 1977. Wales Bonner also dug into her own personal history.
"It feels like an inevitable collection for me to do, it is like coming home in a way," said the designer, who grew up in south London.
Her cuts recall Savile Row, the prestigious road of bespoke tailors synonymous with English style since the 1960s.
Caribbean symbols such as gold buttons on a serge reefer jacket are displayed with pride.
The cross-cultural look can also be seen in hats made from Scottish wool from the Shetland islands but in Jamaican colours.
"It is a mix of very traditional, recognisable British fabrics but also trying to disrupt them a little bit," said Wales Bonner.
She also reinterprets the works of Frank Bowling, the British abstract painter who was born in Guyana. A retrospective of his work was displayed at the Tate Modern art gallery last year.
His colourful Swan I and II paintings are printed on silk shirts, the bird symbolising the irrepressible desire for freedom.
Sunday's catwalk show, backed by an impressive sound system, esembled a family or street party with the public, including young and older members of the African-Caribbean community, sitting at round tables sipping hibiscus tea. — AFP