Style & Grooming

London Fashion Week Men’s: The Casting at Wales Bonner

Grace Wales Bonner and Deiwght Peters discuss the casting at her stellar A/W18 show, alongside exclusive portraits of the models

London fashion can be loud – at its best, it’s an explosive hotbed of creativity and fresh ideas. Grace Wales Bonner is full of such ideas, but expresses them without any noise. She doesn’t shout and she doesn’t need to; amid the noise of her contemporaries, she delivers something calm and of quality.

Last night, Wales Bonner presented her A/W18 collection, which explored the creole identity – one that she herself identifies with. In it, she proved herself a master tailor, crafting clothes capable of rivalling her (much older) contemporaries in Milan and Paris. With touches of the nautical, the sporty and the military, this collection contained cropped pea coats, gently cinched jackets, floating shirts, slick wool trousers and prints painted with reproductions of works by Jacob Lawrence’s Migration. Backstage, the designer said she was thinking about the idea of the port as “a site of exchange” and of sailors “looking back at an island from a distance” and “thinking about it in a romantic way”.

These ideas fed into the casting which, this season, was the result of a collaboration with Deiwght Peters – the agent behind Jamaica’s top models and founder of Kingston-based model agency SAINT International. “[My brief was] classical beauty,” she told Another Man, “faces that represent the diversity of the Caribbean.” Four models were actually from SAINT and some of them, such as Tevin Steele, came to the show via unorthodox routes – “Tevin,” says Wales Bonner, “was scouted by Deiwght Peters on the side of the road selling coconuts in Jamaica.” Others have been a part of Wales Bonner’s world for a longer and share close relationships with the designer. “[Maximillian] has been in every show I have done and also works with me,” she says. “I find it so helpful to have boys that inspire me and help me to understand a story and perspective. I see casting as something that is two-way and collaborative.”

Wales Bonner and Peters, who says he has been a fan of the designer’s since her debut collection, met up in London in October, and it was then that she suggested collaborating – something that Peters was “thrilled beyond words” by. “The SAINT model aesthetic is consistent with Wales Bonner’s. Grace’s excitement about having strong, confident, handsome, classic-looking black boys from Jamaica was an inspiration for my casting options,” he says. “This collaboration is a sure highlight of my fashion journey and I look forward to more.”

The casting helped make this show a standout of London Fashion Week Men’s. On Twitter shortly after it finished, one fashion journalist suggested that Wales Bonner should succeed Phoebe Philo at Céline – something that seems entirely plausible. She is destined for such things – though whether helming a fashion house is something she wants to do remains another question. Either way, it’s remarkable how Wales Bonner has transcended the category of ‘emerging designer’ in a few short years and has, season after season, succeeded in creating collections of such quality, maturity and elegance. She is in a league of her own.