Wales Bonner SS21
Grace Wales Bonner has always been explicit about the purpose of her label: “The brand was conceptualized as a means to elevate the location of Blackness within the fashion landscape”. The short film ‘Thinkin Home’, which was made to accompany her SS21 collection, premiered on digital platforms at Paris Fashion Week and played with ideas of cultural cross-pollination and the Black diaspora. Set in 1980s Jamaica, the film showed models walking through the country’s landscape and cruising along winding roads on a motorbike. More natural images were interspersed throughout – a waterfall in the distance, or waves breaking on the shore – while a voiceover spoke about the power of “natural living”.
Through Bonner’s collaboration with Adidas Originals, many of the looks referenced the athletic style which came to prominence in the 1980s. There were indigo high waisted running shorts with side stripes in pale yellow, colourful bomber jackets, and slim-fitting tracksuit bottoms. Bonner was inspired by how Jamaicans altered British items of clothing to suit their own lifestyles, by “British clothes that ended up in the Caribbean and were transformed by how people put them together and their context”. A standout design was a knee-length white tunic which Bonner calls “the Stockwell dashiki” or the “Kingston caftan” – where the two names, referencing both South London and Jamaica, suitably reflect the multifaceted history of Black British culture.
Kiminte Kimhekim, Korean-born creative director of his eponymous label, debuted this latest collection, entitled ‘Dreams in the City’ in a short film. It was a laid-back, casual format; models were filmed in a simple studio wearing strongly tailored looks in dark brown, accessorized with chunky gold hoops. One design involved a khaki roll neck worn beneath a marble slip dress – later, the same print was used on a chiffon babydoll dress, showcased by a model walking down a grand, elegant staircase.
Most of the pieces came in a deep, coffee-colored tone: sometimes this shade was used head-to-toe, as when a model wore a vest top, an off-the-shoulder cardigan, and leggings in the same colour. There were some statement items to vary the mood; one look involved a white jacket with mesh panels on the elbows, paired with a midi skirt accented with a band of mesh around the knees and thighs. Later, we saw a cropped blazer decorated with tiny round mirrors – a light-hearted piece balancing sharp tailoring with a sense of fun.
The opening of the film declared that the shooting session “brimmed with exciting uncertainty”, presenting a rare positive spin on the unpredictability of the current climate; perhaps the earthy tones were Kimhekim’s way of offering a sense of groundedness in unsettling circumstances.
KIMHĒKIM I Spring/Summer 2021 Collection I Dreams in the City
Georgian label Situationist is known for the strong links its creative director, Irakli Rusadze, feels towards his native country. His previous work has supported local protests against the police’s use of force; in 2018 he incorporated the hashtag on a range of t-shirts in support of the club Bassiani in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, which had been the site of a violent police raid. His Spring 2019 collection was then showcased in Bassiani itself.
This year’s collection does not take such an overtly political stance, but still shows a strong connection to contemporary Georgian culture. Situationist debuted a film at Paris Fashion Week in which models showcased the label’s looks in busy Georgian streets, and included the reactions of local people as they caught sight of (or, in some cases, studiously ignored) the models in their midst. Throughout the film we see models in dark green leathers eating grapes at a street stand, or sifting through market stalls in flowery backless dresses while elderly women shop beside them.
In one memorable scene, a moustachioed man gawps with slightly intrusive incredulity at a model while she examines her outfit – an ivory silk jacket with a high collar – in a shop window. The more daring the looks, the more viewers are offered an insight into the values of Georgian society; when a male model walks down the street in a grey suit jacket and matching skirt, a woman films him on her phone before disappearing into a doorway. It’s a clever way to showcase a new collection, quite literally focusing on the views of the ‘man on the street’.
SITUATIONIST Spring/Summer 2021
The film manages to be poignant in its social commentary; the last shot is a model, dressed in red and black, helping an elderly lady with her shopping bag. It’s a well-judged ending – there may be hostility to certain aspects of high fashion among the Georgian population, but there is clearly goodwill as well.
S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA.
The day ended with a more unusual film showcasing the latest work of Sterling Ruby, the artist-turned-designer behind the STUDIO. LA. CA. label. Just over two minutes in length, the film displays a figure shrouded in a grey piece of material, facing away from the viewer and crouching in front of a faceless brick wall.
S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA. ss21 via ShowStudio
A poem accompanies this visual, in which each line is spoken twice – the second time in a deep, resonant baritone. The words describe a world on the edge of collapse, with “no sovereignty, no empathy…marching against leaderless leadership”. The figure slowly rises, holding out their hands so that the material becomes a rectangle covering their body. As the model unfurls, it becomes clear that the sheet is an inversion of the American flag, the stars and stripes replaced by dull grey and mottled blue. The voiceover becomes more impactful: “Soak me in bleach and blood, light me on fire”, and finally, “End the tyranny of the president grand dragon”.
S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA. ss21 via ShowStudio
On the label’s website, the collection seems defined by this singular piece of material – entitled ‘Veil Flag’, it comes in a colour called ‘dirty mineral wash’ and is priced at $650. It’s a bold decision from Ruby, whose debut Spring 2020 collection was highly praised – fashion critic-at-large Suzy Menkes reportedly described it as “the best new-person collection I have ever seen”.
Here, his aesthetic aims have clearly converged with a strong sense of political foreboding. Ruby’s friends include Raf Simons, and his track record encompasses a stint of collaboration at Calvin Klein – so this represents a self-assured move by a man whose credentials in the fashion industry are well-founded, even if his own label is a relatively recent endeavour.
Words by Jaleh Brazell
Graphics by Frances Scott