2016 LVMH PRIZE WINNER: GRACE WALES BONNER

Originally published online by F Word Magazine.Wales Bonner by Grace Wales Bonner | Photo by Adeline MaiJust days after her debut Spring/Summer 2017 runway collection at London Collections: Men, British designer Grace Wales Bonner has been announced as the third winner of the LVMH Prize, which will endow her with a $300,000 cash prize to further develop her brand, as well as a year of mentorship within a LVMH brand.

Without a doubt, the LVMH Prize is one of the most illustrious awards to be awarded (and certainly hard-won) by the industry’s top young talents from around the world. Since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2014, she has certainly received a fair share of recognition over the years, such as winning the L’Oreal Professional Talent Award, being asked to present her A/W 2015 collection “Ebonics” at the prestigious Fashion in Motion programme and receiving the British Fashion Council’s emerging menswear designer award in 2015; it seems fitting, however, that her eponymous label Wales Bonner would be awarded this great honour within days of her highly exceptional men’s and women’s runway debut at London Collections: Men S/S 2017.

What makes her so unique is how she explores black male representation and masculine identity through her personal experiences as a child growing up in Southeast London to an English mother and a Jamaican father. And while she’s been known to incorporate opulent embroidery, jewellery and a hybrid of African-Caribbean craftsmanship, her collections truly speak with poignant poetry.

Her Spring/Summer 2017 collection influenced by the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie balances men’s tailoring with elegant, elongated silhouettes for women. Her palette of cream, white and black was minimal but powerful as she presented a lineup of frock coats with cropped sleeves, narrow-waisted suits and slim, slightly cropped trousers.

Additional key pieces this season included a long knife-pleat kilt, long white poet’s blouse over narrow dark trousers, and a range of black preacher’s coats, but of course it was her embellishment details that caught the most attention. With an exercised eye for editorial precision, she embroidered trouser waistbands and embellished the back of a short dark cape with miniature white seashells and beads; and her colourful crocheted collars made a fine addition to one leather jacket.

There’s really so much I can say about this emerging designer, but her talent speaks for itself. Her ability to combine European tailoring with Caribbean influences are exquisitely crafted with a sense of homemade handwork and on this alone I think she’s the perfect recipient of the LVMH Prize, and I certainly can’t wait to see what she does with it.

Congratulations, Grace Wales Bonner!

Photo by Adeline Mai / Business of Fashion. Cover photo by Marcus Tondo/Indigital.tv.

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