For her autumn-winter 2020 show in London, Grace Wales Bonner had friends and audience members sitting at tables around a dance floor, joining her celebration of Lovers Rock, the specifically British Afro-Caribbean music scene sprung from underground London house parties in the ’70s. “Lovers Rock was created by second generation Jamaicans in this country, their own kind of sweet mix of reggae and soul,” the designer explained. “It’s a reflection of my family on my father’s side. My grandad came from Jamaica in the 1950s. My dad used to work on Lewisham Road, and I found these documentary photographs by John Goto of teenagers at Lewisham Youth Club in the ’70s.” What fascinated and touched Wales Bonner was how kids of her dad’s generation wore clothes which referenced Jamaican style and Rasta flag colors, woven into a “a fun mix-up” of standard English smartness, “irreverent, but always elegant.” There was a denim tailored coat lined with velvet; a women’s look featuring a corduroy patchwork matching shirt and skirt color-blocked in red, yellow, green, and black; slim-fit ’70s track pants; and “the kind of Adidas trainers Bob Marley would have worn.” The full repertoire of Wales Bonner’s refined tailoring was on display as well: tweedy suits, separates and coats, worn over body-hugging sweaters and roll-necks, with a stronger representation of womenswear in combinations of blazers and full pleated skirts. The self-knowledge Wales Bonner has gained over the years means she knows who she is and what her brand stands for by now. “It’s coming up for five years,” she summed up to the press. “I’m looking back and consolidating. For me, my approach is elegant, designed, and crafty—about what’s the perfect suit? Now I want to build the business.”
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.