“I wanted to give an insight into my process and my research practice, which is something that I’ve always done for myself, but has maybe not always been communicated,” Grace Wales Bonner explained to Dazed Digital’s Maisie Skidmore. The award-winning fashion designer was speaking about the opening of her first exhibition, ‘A Time For New Dreams’ – a title taken from Ben Okri’s 2011 collection of essays of the same name - which is currently showing at London’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery. The first in a series of unique projects, it focuses on Wales Bonner’s rigorous research into multiple geographies and temporalities, culminating in the presentation of her forthcoming Autumn/Winter 2019 collection, ‘Mumbo Jumbo’.
Born in London to an English mother and Jamaican father, Grace Wales Bonner views fashion as an intuitive means to understanding her own heritage. She graduated from Central St. Martins in 2014, receiving the L’Oreal Professional Talent Prize for her final collection, and was then awarded Emerging Menswear Designer for her debut Autumn/Winter 2015 collection at the British Fashion Awards. In 2016, she received the LVMH Young Designer Prize, and shortly after in 2018, was awarded the British Land London Design Medal. Her multi-sensory exhibition at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery is the first to be curated by a fashion designer, and will form part of a series of projects across the fields of art, architecture, design, fashion and digital.
“The starting point for me was Robert Farris Thompson's book Face of the Gods, which looked at altars of the black Atlantic,” she explained to Skidmore. “I was interested in the aesthetics around shrines, and the connection that writers like Thompson have made between African and Caribbean spiritual and ritual practices, and how these qualities and temporalities and rhythmicalities manifest within aesthetics and literature.” From this starting point, the fashion designer has sought to connect the community of both contemporary and established thinkers, writers, and artists who have helped shape her identity, with each one invited to create their own shrine as a symbolic pathway for imagining different worlds and possibilities. They include peers such as Harlem-based artist Eric N. Mack, whose textile installations have framed her catwalk shows, and photographer Paul Mpagi Sepuya, a frequent collaborator, as well as pioneering writers such as Ishmael Reed, who Wales Bonner commissioned to write a new text to accompany the exhibition, and the aforementioned Ben Okri.
Described as “extraordinary” by Skidmore, the exhibition is accompanied by a rich and diverse program of ‘happenings’, from artist talks to devotional sound workshops, and runs until 16th February 2019.
Home Page Image: Darkroom Mirror (_2150782), 2018. Copyright Paul Mpagi Sepuya. Courtesy the Artist.