LONDON — Grace Wales Bonner has scooped the latest BFC/GQ Designer Fashion Fund for menswear, which comes with a 12-month business mentoring program; pro-bono legal services, and a cash prize of 100,000 pounds.
Previous winners include Nicholas Daley, Ahluwalia, A-Cold-Wall and Craig Green.
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Adam Baidawi, head of editorial content at British GQ and deputy global editorial director, described Wales Bonner as an “electrifying talent with a razor-sharp vision, and the total embodiment of modern creativity: ambitious, collaborative and global.”
Caroline Rush, chief executive officer of the BFC, said the designer has “created a space for a cultural conversation that inspires future generations. Her intellectual approach to design has resulted in multiple collaborations across the creative space, demonstrating the brand’s clear ability to resonate with consumers and achieve commercial success.”
The shortlist included AGR, Bianca Saunders, Bleue Burnham and Paria Farzaneh, who will have the chance to participate in a mentoring program through the BFC’s Designer Initiatives team, according to the BFC.
The judging panel included Damien Paul, head of menswear buying at Matchesfashion.com; Laurent Malecaze, CEO of Dunhill; Samuel Ross, founder of A-Cold-Wall, and Tan France, the designer, TV personality and author.
The BFC/GQ Designer Fashion Fund is part of the BFC Foundation, which supports the British fashion industry by focusing on education; grant-giving, and business mentoring, and the Institute of Positive Fashion.
Wales Bonner, an LVMH Prize winner, was an offbeat choice this year only because she is so well-established, and the award usually recognizes emerging talents.
Wales Bonner was Pitti Uomo’s special guest designer last June, and she has since introduced a bigger, broader apparel offer, new footwear, jewelry and accessories collections. She has also forged strong ties with retailers including Nordstrom.
Wales Bonner founded her label in 2014 shortly after graduating from London’s Central Saint Martins and winning the L’Oréal Professionnel Talent Award.
In 2015, she scooped the prize for Emerging Menswear Designer at the Fashion Awards in London, and won the LVMH Prize a year later. She received the CFDA International Men’s Designer of the Year award in 2021.
Last summer, Wales Bonner was awarded an MBE for services to fashion in Queen Elizabeth’s annual Birthday Honors list. MBE stands for Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and holders include fellow designer Craig Green and musicians Adele and Ed Sheeran.
She has a long history of collaborations and inspirations, many of which focus on the experiences and cultures of African communities on both sides of the Atlantic.
Past collections have referenced the works of Caribbean poets Kamau Brathwaite and the Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott and the experience of Black Caribbean expats and intellectuals living and studying in England in the ’80s.
She has also been inspired by West African studio portraiture and the work of the artist Sanlé Sory in the ’70s, as well as the lives of Don and Moki Cherry as they were making music and art in ’70s Sweden.
She has a longstanding collaboration with Adidas and was among the creatives that Maria Grazia Chiuri tapped to contribute looks to the 2020 Dior cruise collection.
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