Grace Wales Bonner has trained her sights on the pinnacle of luxury, so it made sense that she should stage her first runway show in Paris on Place Vendôme, where you can’t toss a ball without hitting a diamond ring.
“It feels like the epicenter of luxury, and for menswear as well, I think it’s a particularly strong place and context to be shown in,” she said in a preview. “It’s always been my intention to get to this position and to be presenting the brand in Paris.”
While she’s presented collections online on the official Paris calendar, for her show in the 17th-century Hôtel d’Évreux, the London-based designer drew her inspiration from the City of Light with a coed lineup inspired by three figures who left their mark on its cultural scene: James Baldwin, Josephine Baker and the Maharaja of Indore.
The result was a debonair mix of upscale tailoring with sportswear-inspired elements: think a Jamaican soccer jersey, part of her ongoing partnership with Adidas Originals, paired with tuxedo pants and snakeskin boots.
“Wales Bonner’s identity is about bringing an Afro-Atlantic spirit to European luxury so in a way, there’s always a sense of hybridity and a meeting point between cultures and places,” she noted.
She channeled Baker’s insouciant allure with women’s slip dresses, in colorful knits or shiny black silk, and a skirt sprouting bands of thick raffia fringe.
A nubby wool coat and a cream peacoat dotted with cowrie shells were perfect for strolling on the Left Bank in Baldwin’s footsteps, but Wales Bonner also catered to those who would rather stay indoors, with boudoir-inspired pieces that nodded to the maharaja’s mix of Art Deco sophistication and extravagance.
Her love of craftsmanship was reflected in the buttons and shells hand-embroidered on a tuxedo jacket, part of her ongoing collaboration with Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard, and the raffia discs assembled into items like a split skirt for her and a long tunic top for him.
Having won a raft of awards, including the LVMH Prize in 2016, Wales Bonner is well positioned to carve out a space in the French capital’s competitive luxury field — whether or not she ends up snagging a job with an established maison, as rumors have suggested.
The designer is beefing up her women’s offering, and recently introduced footwear and jewelry. “I’m looking to strengthen the position of Wales Bonner within a luxury context,” she explained. This quietly confident showing was another step in the right direction.