Bianca Saunders A/W 20 With Saul Nash

published on 27 January 2020

Georgina Evans talks to designer Bianca Saunders and dancer and designer Saul Nash about Saunders' A/W 20 show.

Georgina Evans talks to designer Bianca Saunders and dancer and designer Saul Nash about Saunders' A/W 20 show.

Photography: Silvia Draz

Menswear designer Bianca Saunders consistently challenges the norms of masculinity. Distortion, stereotypically effeminate scenarios, emotive performance: Saunders softens and intrigues the typical tropes of menswear. Never explicit, always subversive, her signature ruching and fluid shapes charm.

For A/W 20, Saunders was looking at VHS recordings of dancehall parties for reference, intrigued by the pride of performance flickering through the warped screen. Switching-up from the usually static offering, Saunders tapped fellow menswear designer and dancer Saul Nash to choreograph and aid in the romantic recreation of dancehall parties for her presentation. Models danced, gyrated and posed - each in their own fabric-covered booth - some a little awkward, some locking eyes with the camera-phones that lit-up the room. Dancing freely, models in sharp shouldered trench coats, double-denim and scarves embodied the masculine tropes of dressing up for a dancehall night, while those that side-stepped in heels, leather miniature bags and flowing shirts brought an air of femininity. A final flourish of motion appeared in the padded jackets and drill shirts that had a wire running through their seams, each creating shapes that appeared to suspend a moment from Nash's choreography.

Saunders and Nash's mutual ability to portray strength, softness, honesty and realism presented a collaborative dream. Here, Georgina Evans candidly talks with the duo about the making of Saunders' presentation.

Georgina Evans: What was your first instinct, Saul?

Saul Nash: I thought from the references that Bianca sent me, I could relate to them. I used to go out partying like that. I thought 'Wow, it’s really different to what I would do as a choreographer', but it resonated so strongly, culturally, with what builds me outside of fashion, my family. It felt really honest.

Bianca Saunders: We did an audition, where it was myself, Karen (Binns), Chiara (Lafour) - who helps out with the managing and direction - and then the casting director (Najia Saad), it was almost like being on X-Factor.

SN: It was about getting the dancers into that headspace, giving them different storylines too. How would they navigate a party? Bianca’s clothes, they’re smart and elegant. When I go out in those kinds of clothes, the last thing I wanna do is sweat them out.

BS: Some of the guys weren’t the best dancers, but when you go to a party not everyone’s a good dancer, they’re just having a good time. Sometimes it can be a bit too much when you make people do a certain dance move, so it was quite nice that there was a flow naturally, just how they would be in their own space.

SN: I guess it reflects everyone. There’s a spectrum of movement which was really, really nice.

GE: So, the audition process, were you putting on a tune and saying 'go for it'?

BS: I was like, 'I’m gonna put some music on, move however you want to to the beat.' Some of them moved quite naturally, some of them were doing hip-hop dance moves. There was one guy, I was like 'this guy’s not gonna do this very well', but he really just went for it. I think the guy that stood out for me most in the show was Matthew, he had the blond hair with braids.

SN: With the denim! That was mad. It felt like free flow contemporary movement.

GE: Some of the garments have wire in, were the models getting to play with that as they move?

BS: What I think people liked about the presentation was that you got to see that the clothes are comfortable, you’re able to wear them anywhere, and that’s important in fashion. Can I wear it to the club? Can I wear it out casually? I guess another reason why I wanted to do something with movement was that sometimes fashion has become so straightforward. With Vivienne Westwood shows people dance down the runway or smile. We don’t really have that anymore.

SN: I think the greatest thing, when I saw your show come alive, is the context. Even though it happened in those booths, I felt the context of a party. The men were at a party. Even last night, I went out and I could see your men in the party, I think it felt like you could grab a guy off of the street and put him in it, you know? It felt true.

Photography: Silvia Draz
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