Grace Wales Bonner was awarded the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers for 2016. (Photo: LVMH)
Grace Wales Bonner of Wales Bonner is one to watch — and arguably the most major fashion corporation in the world knows it. Just awarded the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers for 2016 from the conglomerate, she received a €300,000 ($334,425) grant and a year-long mentorship. Bonner — who also won the British Fashion Council’s emerging menswear designer award in 2015 — was bestowed the honor by executives at the French fashion company following a vote by her peers, including Jonathan Anderson, Nicolas Ghesquière, Marc Jacobs, Karl Lagerfeld, Humberto Leon, Carol Lim, Phoebe Philo, and Riccardo Tisci.
“Grace Wales Bonner of Wales Bonner impressed the jury with her soulful work on refined shapes, creating hybrid forms that marry European and African style. I congratulate her for this outstanding achievement,” said Delphine Arnault, director and executive vice president of Louis Vuitton.
Though it’s one of the newest international fashion awards, the LVMH Prize has quickly picked up quite a bit of recognition for itself, having selected designers — including Jacquemus, Marques Almeida, and Hood by Air, among others — just before they became household names.
Here’s everything you need to know about the emerging brand and the brain behind it.
1. Grace Wales Bonner is a woman.
It’s a good year for female visibility. From the first major party presidential nominee to the inaugural State of Women conference in Washington, D.C., glass ceilings are being shattered all over the world. And the fashion industry is no exception to this trend. Following the announcement that Bouchra Jarrar was named the artistic director of Lanvin, making her one of a handful of female designers at the helm of luxury brands, Bonner has made history as the first solo female winner of the LVMH Prize.
The news is heartening, as historically in fashion women have been closed off to the top opportunities in the industry. To see that the LVMH Prize is recognizing diverse talent (it should be noted Delphine Arnault, who spearheaded the creation of the prize, is also a woman) is more than a step in the right direction.
Look from “Ebonics” collection A/W 15.
2. Wales Bonner is a menswear brand.
Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you have to design dresses. Bonner has been building her business by creating African-inspired suits and sportswear since she graduated two years ago. Her pieces explore the ideas of masculinity and black sexuality. Just last week at London Collections: Men’s, the designer showed a collection of muscle-hugging knits, velvet suits, and feminine tailoring.
FKA Twigs wearing Wales Bonner. (Photo: Getty Images)
3. She already has celebrity fans.
It’s common knowledge in the industry that getting your pieces on the right celebrities can make your business. Sure, having the right product assortment and quality is key, but getting a garment on the right star can bring a watershed of press that kicks off a bump in sales. Bonner’s celebrity fans include the current faces of Dior, A$AP Rocky and Rihanna. She even released a collaboration with FKA Twigs, which the singer regularly wears. Not too shabby!
Look 17 from the Spring/Summer 2016 runway. (Photo: Getty Images)
4. The brand champions models of color on the runway
While it might seem like a no-brainer for designers of color to champion models of color, that’s not always the case. At her Spring 2017 presentation, Bonner cast a variety of men and women of various colors and shades to wear her designs.