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Monday, September 26, 2022

Grace Wales Bonner: “In the Renaissance palaces, the presence of important black people was more frequent” | Fashion

“My way of creating and communicating is through beauty.” Stop the presses: for the first time since fashion has heard from her, and that is now eight years ago, Grace Wales Bonner speaks of aesthetics before ethics. Suddenly, not a load of sociocultural depth in her words, not a footnote on identity politics, not half a bibliographical reference of intellectual depth that explains such a twist in the script. Without echoes of the thinkers and intellectuals James Baldwin, Hilton Als, Ishmael Reed or Ben Okri bouncing between her well-known studies / reflections on the polysemy of Afro clothing. Such a statement reveals, however, that the sensible designer is not infrequently overshadowed by the historian with an intense dialectic or that other artist with a whimsical narrative that usually possesses her. “The real message is to create something capable of seducing people because of its beauty, rather than what it may or may not mean,” she continues. And she ends unleashed at last: “No matter how much you investigate and explore in depth, the context is irrelevant if there is no accompanying aesthetic solution.” The British creator (London, 32 years old), who founded the firm that bears her surname by flag in 2014, shortly after graduating from Central Saint Martins, dispatches with the journalist just the day after the spring-summer 2023 fashion show. its return to conventional presentations after two and a half years of alternative formulas imposed by the pandemic. “Without a doubt, it represents a turning point, also in terms of commercial opportunity, given the greater scope of this collection”, she begins by admitting. “Being here is important”, she justifies then her. Here is Florence, a symbolic-monumental location that ends up clarifying the situation. British designer Grace Wales Bonner. Photo: JAMIE MORGAN Wales Bonner was the special guest at the one hundred and second edition of Pitti Immagine Uomo, the biannual men’s prêt-à-porter fair with the highest prestige in the sector both in terms of number of participants and volume of business, whose last call had place in the middle of last June. So better play it safe. If you have to repeat “sophisticated”, “fluid” or “elegant” like a psalmody —perhaps spell—, she repeats herself. If it is necessary to influence the richness and tactile quality of the materials, which give a mad desire to touch them, it is affected. If we must remember the great level of Florentine textile refinement, a constant source of inspiration, she is remembered. And if you have to avoid talking about politics, avoid it. At least explicitly. “I wanted to respond to the history of this place, trying to connect it to Wales Bonner”, she slides at one point. “It’s my reaction to what Florence means, both as an epicenter of elegance and beauty and power.” Make no mistake: Grace Wales Bonner always does her homework. Few like her to develop the context that explains her collections, it does not matter if it is about exploring the style of Afro-Caribbean intellectuals in the university environment of Great Britain in the eighties, dissecting in terms of gender, military pomp and circumstance religious-ceremonial of the enthronement of Haile Selassie as Emperor of Ethiopia, investigate the dynamics of dissident aesthetics in the night scene of literary and jazz Harlem of the twenties or vindicate the countercultural legacy of the Jamaican migrants of the Lovers Rock music scene of early seventies. Held in the inner courtyard of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, her parade in the cradle of the Italian Renaissance was not going to be less, of course. For the occasion, the designer has recovered the memory of the so-called black Medici, mestizo, in reality: Alessandro de Medici, alias El Moro, Duke of the Florentine Republic, considered the first non-white European head of state at the beginning of the 15th century. He died early, at 26, killed by a cousin of his. British historian Catherine Fletcher, author of The Black Prince of Florence (2016), assures for the case that he was killed twice: the first with iron, the second with a pen. Because those who wrote history took care to make him invisible, deliberately ignoring the color of his skin as soon as the slave trade was perceived as a lucrative business and the Renaissance multicultural story ceased to suit. Nobles of black or African descent participating in the construction of modern Europe, but how? “The presence of characters and dignitaries of color was more than usual and welcome in settings like this. The very walls of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi testify to the socio-cultural importance that Tartars, Armenians, Berbers and Africans had in Renaissance Italy, just look at the famous frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Chapel of the Magi”, explains the creator , herself the daughter of a white mother and Afro-Caribbean father. Jacket suits cut with sporting precision, formal shirts desecrated by semi-transparent fabrics, sartorial elements of a certain ceremonial wardrobe deconstructed by alien manual traditions. WALES BONNER striped jumper. Photo: Antarctica Beyond a certain context, here is the wardrobe of any prince —or princess, whose gender has never been decisive in Wales Bonner’s story— of our days. And it is clear that the designer has gone all out: the cashmere tuxedos and camel hair coats are the fruit of her renewed creative partnership with Anderson & Sheppard, Fran Lebowitz’s favorite Savile Road London tailor with whom she had already developed the guidelines for autumn-winter 2021-2022; the operatic openwork overalls benefit from the silk jacquard produced expressly by Maison Charvet, one of the textile pillars of Parisian haute couture; and Italian leather goods know-how comes to the fore in the firm’s new line of footwear, dominated by slingback sandals and slippers. Yet the emphasis is on hand-woven and dyed cotton garments by Burkina Faso artisans and macrame dresses, jackets and shirts embellished with rock crystal beads and recycled glass from Ghana’s goldsmithing tradition. “Right now, what really motivates me is being able to demonstrate that the different expressions of craftsmanship can hold an equal dialogue with the most refined techniques of Parisian couture,” she concedes. “I want to elevate the everyday, questioning the conventional notion of luxury that exists in the West from an African and Afro-Atlantic perspective. Excellence does not belong to one place. In Africa and the Caribbean it is possible to find ancestral techniques that are just as refined as in Paris”. She was already slow in coming out of her sociopolitical and cultural vein. The t-shirt printed with one of the works from the Lost Boys series, by the African-American artist Kerry James Marshall, included in the spring-summer 2023 collection, by the way, has an anti-racist message and a charitable/solidarity objective of supporting young people of color in risk of exclusion through educational programs. T-shirt in organic fabric and wool and plaid pants, both by WALES BONNER; and sports shoes from the ADIDAS ORIGINALS Fall-Winter 2022-2023 collection by WALES BONNER. Photo: Antarctica For a long time now, Wales Bonner has managed the same thing swimming in favor of the stormy waters of the market than avoiding those currents of thought/artistic expression in which it is easy to sink if there is no true emotional anchorage. Its collaboration with the Adidas Originals line, launched in 2020, attests, for example, to a commercial nose that has positioned it with honors in consumer meccas such as Dover Street Market, Selfridges, Net-a-Porter or Matchesfashion.com, while her increasingly multidisciplinary scope as a creator has led her to head the Department of Fashion Design at the Vienna University of Applied Arts, curate the exhibition A Time for New Dreams at the Serpentine Gallery in London, serve as guest editor of cult publications (see number 22 of the Belgian magazine A Magazine, published last October) or founding his own record label (Togetherness, specialized in rescuing out-of-print vinyl and rarities at 33 rpm). “Education or activism?” —I have never liked to preach to others, nor to express myself aggressively. I prefer to be subtle. I am sensitive by nature. I think it is much better to convince or seduce through beauty than with incendiary speeches. “Tell a story or send a message?” —Tell stories capable of inspiring. In this parade, it was very important for me to physically feel, to make visible, the African traditions. Having Ibrahim Mahama has been essential for this. Mahama, a Ghanaian artist celebrated for incorporating social and political analysis into his creative practice, intervened in the architecture of the Florentine Palazzo Medici Riccardi with his usual carpeting/upholstery of jute sacks used in African mining. Grace Wales Bonner understands her collaboration as a way to generate new echoes in a symbolic space that can resonate for future generations. “The truth is that every time I think more about the future. For the last few years I have dedicated myself to reflecting on the past, using it to understand the present, and I think it is time to evolve”, she reveals. “Yes, I would like to turn my name into a lasting luxury brand.” She doesn’t say it either, but the sociopolitical and cultural perspective of this new aspiration is taken for granted. Otherwise it wouldn’t be Wales Bonner. * Model: Zorina (Sight Management). Styling: Paula Delgado. Makeup and hair: Lucas Margarit (Another Agency) for Givenchy Beauty.

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– Article Written By @Rafa Rodríguez from https://smoda.elpais.com/moda/grace-wales-bonner-en-los-palacios-renacentistas-era-mas-frecuente-la-presencia-de-personajes-importantes-negros/

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