Tension was in the air in London today. Walking from show to show in central London, I encountered a series of conflicting events. The annual Trooping of the Colour caused blocks, closures and floods of well-heeled men and women dressed in uniform and fine millinery. While the World Naked Bike ride brought much blushing and batting of eyelids, a nasty aggression was felt in the protest at Trafalgar Square by far-right activists, enraged at the EDL leader's recent jail sentence.
Shouts and the sound of breaking bottles could be heard near Charing Cross at 7pm as I made my way to Bianca Saunders' S/S 19 show. Highlighted by NEWGEN as One to Watch, with only one collection to her name, Saunders must have felt a pressure upon her. But the feeling of pressure, that sense of tension permeating the air outside the show space, lifted as I walked into her hazy, blue presentation.
This season showed a continuation of Saunders' exploration of black male identity, this time focusing closely on body language and physical presence. Her models stood, sat or slumped on a set of six wicker chairs, some holding glasses of milk with flowers as straws, the liquid almost purple under the blue light. A set of simple clothes were on show; t-shirts tugged up at the side of the torso, white vests with high v-necks and taut, midnight blue trousers. The ruched flannel slacks and shirt, styled as separates by Ib Kamara, portrayed the intimacy Saunders has become known for; the garments looked soft yet secure.
Bianca Saunders is interested in shy confidence, the experience of growing comfortable in your own skin, your own clothes. In this collection, entitled 'Gestures', she used common fabrics - nylons, jersey and cottons - to represent this. The clothes described the emotional area between undress and self-consciousness, a relatable notion, achieved through showing areas of vulnerable skin revealed in considered cuts.
To see one of London's young talents researching these quiet internal moments and showcasing her work with such calm consideration is inspiring. It's tempting to make the comparison between Saunders' work and that of Grace Wales Bonner, who is ominously missing from this season's schedule, but I would argue against that move. Saunders' work feels approachable and in it's distinctly unfussy aesthetic - I would hope - more affordable than Wales Bonner. The presentation for S/S 19 left me with a sense of hope. Hope for this designer's future and hope that moments like this and minds like hers continue to have a platform and a voice in fashion that can shout louder than the current noise and chaos around.