Grace Wales Bonner, 25, the London-based menswear designer, has been announced as LVMH Prize 2016 winner (along Vejas Kruszewski, who won the second prize), gaining the a major back-up for her eponymous brand. But in fact that’s just one of the reasons I’m writing about her today. The latter is her latest, break-through outing during London Fashion Week, which is pure poetry. When creating her label, Bonner’s main aim was to break the stereotype of black male fashion as aggressive, popularly seen in posture of hip-hop sweatpants and rapper’s gold chains. Wales Bonner’s work focuses on black male sexuality, unconventional masculine identity, and mainly afro-American cultural experience.
With a background of growing up in South East London and having a Jamaican dad, Grace looks forward to show the masses a new diversity in fashion, but from a totally different perspective – it’s much calmer, gentler, not as bold as in Stella Jean‘s way. This season, she was inspired particularly by Ethiopia’s emperor from the 30s, Haile Selassie, who was famous for blurring the African rituals with his own, military coronations and “style”. Tailoring, the season’s ultimate highlight, was embellished with crystals, all in traditional crotchet and meticulous embroidery. Her decorated, slightly dandy-ish men are accompanied by female models, who wear similarly androgynous pieces – gender fluidity is nothing new to us in London. But according to Wales Bonner’s vision, male beauty becomes something much more unexpected, yet highly signature. Her debut runway show was a bomb – and with LVMH’s funds, Grace will surely keep doing her thing.
Post-fashion-week period is the best time to take a look at the most exciting part of the entire fashion industry, so the young, talented designers. And if speaking of being young, Vejas Kruszewski is the best example – he is just 19 (although he considers this fact as “oversold“, saying that age is “gimmicky, like clickbait“) and his brand has been already selected for the LVMH Prize Award shortlist, where the winner receives 300,000 euros and a professional mentorship in order to develop his/her brand. Moreover, Vejas is not a rich kid coming from a fancy fashion school – he is a totally self-taught designer, who has a very distinct vision. Utilitarian accessories and re-constructed shearling jackets (!), jeans and sweatshirts move along Kruszewski’s path of raw, unexploited scene of New York’s underground fashion. The clothes are genderless, and the philosophy of the brand is followed by New York’s boldest individuals, like the transgender “it-girl” Hari Nef, who stars in the autumn-winter 2016 look-book. She looks great in these well-manufactured pieces, right?
The designer’s clothes, like the MA-1 aviator jacket or long, flowing tunics, are über-cool, but not because of the Instagram/Tumblr hype. Tactility of the textiles makes Vejas a label to watch and even one to invest in. In his Paris showroom, which was spontaneously set up during last fashion week, Kruszewski talked Dazed & Confused through his textiles and textures: “I found this speckled leather in brown that almost looks rusty and then also a purple one. And they’re basically remnants from furniture manufacturing. It reminds me of a bruise. There’s also a shaved goat fur. I like the way it sounds – a shaved fur. The wools are from a family-run mill in Italy. The sweatshirting material is something I like to work with because it’s so familiar, but this one in feels more spongy and it has a four-way stretch.” The Lithuanian / Polish descent from Montreal, Quebec, is about to kick it off with his baby-brand, if he wins the LVMH award. And if the odds won’t be in his favour – after observing the very early stages of this designer’s fashion, I am 100% sure that he will be able to make it on his own, as it’s a true talent alert! Go Vejas!
Photography: Chloé Le Drezen, Wilkosz & Way. Visit vejaskruszewski.com for more.
Although I had my thumbs up for the amazingly innovative Faustine Steinmetz this year at LVMH Prize Awards, Marques Almeida is also a good choice in reality. They were the ones who discreetly made frayed and cut denim cool again; they made 90’s vibe strong and most noticeable this season. And there is something about their cool, ghetto attitude. The Portuguese duo rocked London just a few years ago and from the beginning smelled with success. Winning with Vetements, Jacquemus (partly because he got the second award) and Off White, Marques Almeida is now excepted to be really it, after the luxury group, LVMH, takes them under their wings. Watch this space.
Here is their backstage from AW15…
Launched in November 2013, the Prix LVMH pour les Jeunes Créateurs de Mode (LVMH prize for young fashion designers)is open to designers under the age of 40, who have already designed and shown at least two collections of men’s or women’s ready-to-wear. In February, 30 of them were short-listed to present their collections to a panel of industry professionals from the LVMH stable, including Nicolas Ghesquière, Marc Jacobs, Karl Lagerlfeld, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, Phoebe Philo, Raf Simons and Riccardo Tisci alongside LVMH’s Delphine Arnault, Jean-Paul Claverie and Pierre-Yves Roussel, who selected 12 finalists to show today, Wednesday May 28. Thomas Tait walked away with the Prix LVMH, representing a €30,000 grant and personal business mentoring by a specially created team from LVMH.
Thomas Tait had disjointed cubist prints with minimal pleated features in a naive palette of bold colours at his AW14 show in London, which is the latest collection from this young designer. It’s very strong, and the make-up by Homas de Kluyver’s was the perfect compliment to the collection: Yves Klien blues and dried acid greens. VIBRANT, YOUNG and FAST are the words that describe Tait best. And I can’t wait to see what new will his LVMH award bring him!