Wales Bonner: Menswear AW23

Wales Bonner’s AW23 show was an ode to the neoterics who made Paris shine. Celebrating these paragons of Parisian grandeur, she presented her refined approach to masculinity from the epicentre of European luxury, at the Hotel D’Evreux of Place Vendome. From within that historic suite of salons – decked out in opulent chandeliers, elaborate wainscoting and mellow archaic wallpaper – Bonner’s models emerged as a procession of sophisticated “Black flanuers” swathed in tailored evening wear accentuated by cowrie shells and dancing raffia plumes or technical utility garms. It was a montage of singular characters: artists, writers, watchers, seekers, free spirits and, of course, the enigmatic figure of the black flaneur, all in varied bouclé tweeds and fluid silk styles.

The collection was entitled Twilight Reverie, aptly capturing the ambiance of the show’s stomping ground – the City of Light. Diving deep into its many artistic traditions and speaking to the Parisian “Presence Africaine”, collegiate jackets had the words “Sorbonne 56” embroidered onto them, marking the first congress of Black artists and writers attended by notable figures like Aimé Césaire, Alioune Diop and Frantz Fanon. Other influential delegates included American writer James Baldwin, the fabulously wealthy Maharaja and Maharani of Indore, and the illustrious showgirl Josephine Baker. There’s an indelible afro-spirit to what Bonner does, whether it’s swanky suiting or everyday sportswear. In any case she has always sought to honour the existence of the Black diaspora.

The first look out this season was a precisely tailored black overcoat with half its upturned collar in white that came paired with wide-legged trousers and contrast ribbed trainers. Pinned to the coat’s breast was a brooch – one of several concoctions of baroque pearl and Ghanaian beaded jewellery that spangled the show with a sense of the ceremonial. What followed were menswear skirts, babouche slippers and v-neck knitwear dipped in Swarovski crystals. Bonner’s painterly subjects also appeared in high-octane studded corduroy trousers and buttery Ecco®️ leather coats – one a navy and maroon baseball bomber and the other a pale blue crocodile trench. Elsewhere signature high-collar shirting and silk scarves were made in collaboration with renowned artist Lubaina Himid.

Loose, preppy, athletic: the brand’s ongoing partnership with Adidas Originals’ infiltrated the show, presenting gentleman’s pinstripes and Jamaican sunlight yellow as a preview of an upcoming collaboration with the country’s national football team.

From sauntering along the Seine to sipping premium vino at the cabaret, with Wales Bonner, you can do it all.

Photography courtesy of Wales Bonner.

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