In this era of quiet luxury, what could be quieter than a library? That’s just where Grace Wales Bonner conceived this elegant, considered collection that nodded to American college life, and a wider world of textile craft and tradition.
Wales Bonner did much of her work at Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, where she was looking at the institution’s sporting, musical and literary history.
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“It’s a very important home for imaginative thinking,” said Wales Bonner, who certainly did a lot of that for fall.
The show, which unfurled at the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts, was smaller than her last outing (which took place in a vast courtyard under the blazing June sunshine) and more low-key, fitting the collection’s mood.
She opened the show with a lineup of gray wool pieces, fluid suits with patch pockets, cozy cargo pants and a pair of trousers paired with white Fair Isle knits, an imaginative take on the collegiate wardrobe of yesteryear, rather than today’s staples of sneakers, jeans and baseball caps.
Wales Bonner worked with Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard once again on a series of pieces, including the silk-trimmed tuxedos, a double-breasted cashmere coat and a lineup of tweed bouclé cropped trousers, for the more daring dressers.
That collegiate richness spilled into the outerwear, including natty check varsity jackets; denim and leather styles with frothy shearling collars, and a corn-colored shearling coat like a burst of winter sunshine.
A vintage-y camel blazer with gold buttons and turned-up sleeves will do just fine for a weekend lunch with the parents.
She also looked beyond the Howard campus to textile design, working vintage Indian Kantha quilts into an emerald green skirt layered under a blazer, and a jacket with a hand-dyed sleeve and pocket in a washed-out shade of red.
Although most of these looks were unisex, there were a handful of women’s designs here, too, including a terrific pair of silver mary janes, and a wrap skirt with frayed edges. Wales Bonner said womenswear now makes up a large part of the collection — and there’s still room to grow.
She’s also building out footwear. Having cemented her relationship with Adidas Originals — those Wales Bonner Sambas remain big sellers — she’s most recently done a deal with Timberland, which supplied the low shearling boots.
Jewelry is a growing category, too, and this season Wales Bonner’s designs had a mystical aura. A brass brooch with feathers and glass beads, and other delicate pieces, were all fruits of the designer’s time spent cracking the books, and unlocking her imagination.
Launch Gallery: Wales Bonner RTW Fall 2024
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