WALES BONNER’S WEB: Young London men’s wear talent Grace Wales Bonner is looking to amp up her web site with an e-commerce offer as she quietly builds her brand. The site, which until now has featured images from her collections, will launch this summer.
Her label is sold at stores including Dover Street Market, Selfridges and 10 Corso Como, but like many emerging designers today, Wales Bonner is going straight to her consumer. In an interview, she said e-commerce is also about “presenting a wider world in which you can engage with the brand, and having the authority on what I’m doing and how I represent that.”
The designer, who was raised in southeast London and whose family roots are in Jamaica, won for emerging men’s wear talent at the 2015 British Fashion Awards, and took home the LVMH young designer prize in 2016. Among the judges that year were Phoebe Philo and Karl Lagerfeld, whom she said were “very supportive of me during my time with the prize. They really helped me in terms of structuring and creating a strategy for the business.”
Winners of the LVMH prize get 300,000 euros and technical and financial support from the luxury group for a 12-month period.
Earlier this year, Wales Bonner revealed plans to unveil a full women’s wear range in June. She had previously shown women’s wear two years ago during her men’s show, which conjured the messianic figure of the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie.
She describes her own style as “quite classic” masculine dressing and added she loves tailoring. “I’m quite aware of how I wear clothes,” said Wales Bonner of her approach to designing women’s wear. She added that launching men’s wear first gave her the time and energy to focus on women’s wear. “I think for me it was about having this distance — literally, and more space to project.”
Upcoming projects include a collaboration with American filmmaker Jordan Hemingway, Jamaica’s Saint Models agency and Nowness on a film called “Finding Saint,” which highlights three male models and their journey from their native Jamaica to their various fashion events. The film was produced and directed by Bureau Future and shot in London and Jamaica.
“We worked with five boys from Saint Models agency,” said Wales Bonner. “I really wanted to highlight a bit of the their story and their journey, so it was quite a collaborative film that we worked on, so it was partly shot in Jamaica and party shot at my show in January.”
Bonner described the mood of the film as “quite abstract. It was giving them a voice and a platform and allowing them to speak for themselves, really,” said Wales Bonner. “And also to have them engage with my story and concept that I had in mind for the collection, it was very interesting.”
Wales Bonner is no stranger to film. “I’ve worked on three films with Harley Weir and usually I work on films for the collection. This is one of the first times that I’ve worked with Jordan Hemingway.”
The designer is currently working on her next range. “In some ways, it’s an extension of some of the ideas that I’ve brought up in the fall collection,” said Wales Bonner.
She also hinted that a few brand collaborations may be in the works this year and wants to team with brands that are on the same wavelength. “It’s more about finding someone who has similar values and someone who allows you scope to interpret things in your own way,” said Wales Bonner. “I’m always interested in craft and tradition and making beautiful things and refining that.”