I must confess, this was my first Wales Bonner show. I had heard rumours about that ‘Wales Bonner wow factor' that one can get when attending her shows. Maybe a model catches your eye, maybe the music stirs your soul, maybe you’re moved to tears. My stomach was certainly aflutter. It’s a testament to Grace that in just over two years since graduating, her shows are held in such high regard.
I find my seat in an area entitled 'Trois Rivieres', other areas are defined by such names as 'Les Saunes' and 'Jacmel'. The latter of which is a commune in southern Haiti - an explicit link to Bonner’s continual referencing of Creole culture. Amongst the different 'zones' is a decorative set of swathes of fabric patch-worked together. Created by Harlem artist Eric N. Mack and layered just so, the set felt as though someone had been marooned on a deserted island with nothing but their luxurious scarves for shelter. Perhaps that’s a little reductive of Mack's beautiful craft, but with waves lapping from the speakers and the phrase 'Wet skin dries in the sun' in the press notes, one couldn’t help but feel transported to warm shores. Indeed, the notes also read of 'a black sailor returning to land'. My Wales Bonner experience so far, an altogether soothing one.
No sooner had I begun to relax to the seaside sounds, an oboe started to sound and the first look appeared. Divinely beautiful tailoring followed suit, with the softest of flared trousers, the slightest of bell sleeve and buttons down the bottom of trouser legs. Here, buttons were significant, glossy and proud. The eye was immediately drawn to the double-breasted patterns of seven or the one singular soloist on a collarless vest. Smatterings of orange and yellow fell on a silken shirt and trouser - a homage to the dynamic cubist artist Jacob Lawrence in both prints and hand-painted reproduction.
Jackets kissed the figure, giving a luxurious silhouette and exposing skin. A blue check that trimmed tops of trouser and jacket led the eye to the hip, which too was exposed and gave a sliver of sensuality to the formality of the garments. This check could also be seen on neckerchiefs alike, each with a drawstring attachment, adjustable for the sailor at sea in the sun.
Bonner’s casting is always an added strength to her collections and this season she had collaborated with Saint International Models of Jamaica. Four models walked from this agency and looked superb. In fact, the casting overall, as always, superb.
My Wales Bonner 'moment' finally came when a satin cream blazer with sleeves scrunched to elbow appeared. An oversized pocket on each side added a new shape and I imagined they were brimming with shells and collectables from this traveller’s voyage. It felt special, I felt special.
This collection was so smooth, so polished, from head to toe - Stephen Jones hat to Manolo Blahnik shoe. It felt fresh for Wales Bonner - a balance from previously embellished, rich seasons. While most can’t afford Bonner’s demi-couture techniques, this collection (that jacket) are worth squirrelling the pennies for. Bonner is on a steady ascent - you’ll want an item from the now for later.