Wales Bonner looks to the 70s but keeps it contemporary
Twenty-first century dressing may have become more casual than ever before, but there’s still a place for tailoring and on Sunday evening, that place was on the Wales Bonner catwalk.
But don’t run away with the idea that Grace Wales Bonner has turned into a traditionalist. At London Fashion Week Men’s, the latest collection from the much-lauded designer offered a quirky twist on tailoring, while there were just as many dressed down options, all of them giving us a new slant on a heritage style.
In this case, ‘heritage’ means an urban and multi-cultural style for AW20, looking for its inspiration to the Lovers Rock reggae scene that made waves in London in the 1970s. It added up to a collection that looked back but felt modern, and that oozed cool.
What we got on the 2020 runway was a mood that celebrated the look rather than faithfully reproduced it. Think bad taste tailoring in giant window pane checks; a tweed suit with contrasting lapels and pockets; an oversized and updated rider jacket in shearling teamed with sidestripe pants and retro trainer shoes.
Also key was the blouson-biker in luxe leather, paper-bag-waist pants with a tucked-in knit vest, and an updated donkey jacket over a rollneck sweater (that rollback being a 70s staple that was found throughout the collection).
Important too was the use of the Jamaican red, green and gold colourway as a colour story supporting easy neutrals and a range of blues. It’s a colour story that crossed cultural boundaries in the 70s and should also make an impact in a colour-obsessed AW20 season.
As mentioned, the entire line-up exuded cool. It was the kind of cool to be found in the John Goto photos of second-gen Caribbean and Asian youth living in Lewisham that Wales Bonner cited as one of the influences for the collection. It was also the kind of cool that anyone old enough would recognise and remember fondly — half the kids in my Lewisham sixth form college class in the 70s seemed to dress that way.
But those kids are Baby Boomers now and so would be unlikely to buy into the Wales Bonner vision today. This is one for Millennials above all — being a Millennial herself, she knows what her contemporaries like. That insight helped her come up with a confident collection and there’s no denying she’s a designer who has plenty of reasons to be confident. Name-checked by Anna Wintour as one of the most exciting young creatives out there, she has won the BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund prize, seen her clothes crop up regularly on the backs of big-name influencers (cultural royalty, Hollywood royalty, real royalty) and appears to be going from strength to strength.
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