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Wales Bonner’s spring/summer 21 collection, Essence, is the second in a season spanning triptych that explores the diasporic connections between Britain and the Caribbean. As last season’s collection Lovers Rock reflected the British Jamaican community in London in the 70s, Essence focusses our gaze on the early 80s origination of dancehall music in Jamaica. Through her signature sartorial storytelling, Wales Bonner infuses a number of iconic adidas looks with rich references to bring an effortless ease and evening air to the everyday.
“I was interested in British clothes that ended up in the Caribbean and were transformed by how people put them together and their context,” Grace Wales Bonner explained at the collection’s launch back in September. Throughout, there’s a dialogue between romanticised classicism and energetic reimagination. While much of the collection serves as an exercise in refinement - honing the purest elements of the Wales Bonner world and wardrobe – as tailoring is ever present, while evoking British morning dress, the heritage of Jermyn Street shirt makers and manifesting the relaxed elegance of Augustus Pablo’s iconic dress - there is a dancehall vibrancy to the collection too. Upon the release of her debut collaboration with adidas Originals, Wales Bonner explained how she was interested in exploring the “intersection between tailoring and sportswear” and that Adidas felt like a “natural partner” to experiment with. For spring/summer 21, she pushes the experiment further as hybrid sports tailoring is enhanced with striped satin, elevated jockey silks and patchworked corduroy in electric blue. It’s here where the continued collaboration with adidas Originals dances. As the Perry Henzell-directed film that "brought reggae to the world" The Harder They Come provided key reference for the soft colour palette, Wales Bonner introduces slimline tracksuits in pink and ivory crochet, canvas and leather plimsolls and ivory topstitched football boots.
“There’s always been a continuity to the way I’ve worked, because I’ve expressed who I am and my position quite clearly since I started,” Grace told us. There’s a persuasive soft power movement behind her work. From the moment she graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2014, a softness and sensitivity has drawn the industry deeper and deeper into her world. As she’s travelled through time and across continents and cultures, her narrative-stitched designs continually manage to playfully pause the usual blink-and-you’ll-miss-them blur of boys and, instead, we lose ourselves in her carefully crafted collections, and see the world through different perspectives. From her L’Oréal Professional Talent Award-winning graduate collection, entitled Afrique, shown on a cast of black male models through to her LVMH Prize win in 2016, to her first institutional exhibition, A Time for New Dreams at London’s Serpentine Gallery last year, Grace’s work has continually addressed the politics of identity, sexuality, and race through projects that delicately balance multinationalism with a sense of personal subjectivity. Of course her carefully considered collaboration with adidas Originals continues these expressions. Everything Wales Bonner creates reflects the brand’s DNA.
While the collaborative apparel features reimagined 70s era pieces including shorts, T-shirts, and tracksuits elevated with vintage cut lines, rich ribs, mesh, check prints and crochet three stripes, the collection also hosts quintessential updates to the adidas Samba and Nizza silhouettes. Chosen for its rich footballing heritage, the WB Samba sneaker is composed of a full leather upper with a suede toe cap and heel tab as well contrast topstitching details, satin lining, leather stripes, co-branded details throughout, and supplementary crochet laces. Meanwhile, the WB Nizza Lo boasts a canvas upper with thick topstitching details and enamel eyelets, as well as a vulcanized outsole and co-branded details.