Meet Grace Wales Bonner, the 24 year old British menswear designer who was just awarded the third annual LVMH Prize. This young visionary addresses politics of identity, sexuality, and race through her luxurious, yet spiritual, designs. Grace reimagines ideas of masculinity and infuses rich conceptual and visual histories that travel across continents. Her brainchild Wales Bonner delicately balances multinationalism and a sense intimacy. And everyone is craving more. Here's seven things to know about the young design heavyweight.
1. She graduated design school just 2 years ago
2. Her identity is integral to her practice
Grace grew up in Southeast London, raised by her English mother and Jamaican father. Growing up, Grace recalls being hyperaware of the fact that she was mixed race, which prompted a deep, diasporic self-exploration; she told i-D "I think I always had a sensitivity to what people wore and what they looked like, and from that I found it quite natural to create an aesthetic." As a brand, Wales Bonner references African styles often in tandem with European influences, holding true to it's designer's identity, experience, and fascinations.
3. Grace's work explores black male identity and sexuality
Wales Bonner's designs take a unique approach to menswear by transcending the confines of traditionally masculine apparel. She adorns her proclaimed "beautiful boys," (many of whom are close friends) in gorgeous crushed velvets, blush and cream hues, intricate beading and embellishments, and high-waisted bell bottoms, all of which might evoke flamboyancy. As Grace explained to i-D, she wants to provide empowerment through her luxurious apparel, pushing back on the stereotype that black bodies are restricted to a hardened, streetwear look.
4. Her collections are rooted in rich histories
Although Grace is best-known as a designer, she is an incredible researcher and historian, which becomes evident upon thorough investigation of her designs. For example, her collection Malik was inspired by Malik Ambar, an Ethiopian ex-slave who traveled to India and became a great ruler in the 17th century. To Dazed, Grace described the body of work as being about "transition, displacement and cultural mirroring between Africa and India, particularly the African diaspora across the Indian Ocean."
5. She's won a hoard of awards
Grace Wales Bonner's list of honors is almost unbelievable for a designer of her age. Starting with the L’Oréal Professionnel Talent Award for her graduate collection and a personal commendation from Central Saint Martin's Dean on her dissertation "Black on Black," she has now been named the 2016 winner of the LVMH Prize. Additionally, she was invited to V&A's Fashion in Motion programme after her first season and in 2015 she was recognized as the Emerging Menswear Designer by the British Fashion Council at the Fashion Awards.
6. She has a top-notch Instagram
A quick scroll down Grace's Instagram reveals a gorgeously curated mood board, containing personal creations alongside the work of her greatest inspirations. The designer is fascinated with artists of various mediums, including Basquiat, James Baldwin, and Malick Sidibé, that unapologetically examine and depict concepts of blackness. Grace's inspirations both exaggerate and break free from stereotypes, revealing roots of the dynamism in her own practice.
7. And she's got some major cosigns under her belt
Wales Bonner consistently produces designs that are captivating in their own right, but it definitely doesn't hurt that she's dressed fellow Brit FKA Twigs, and Rihanna and A$AP Rocky are rumored fans. Also keep in mind that Karl Lagerfeld and Riccardo Tisci were among the panelists who awarded Grace with the LVMH Prize; talk about serious cosigns.