Bianca Saunders’ presentation at London Fashion Week Men’s on Saturday evening was her debut. It took place in the bowels of 180 The Strand, the BFC’s fashion week residence. She is the recipient of NEWGEN sponsorship for the next year which will see her develop a commercial oeuvre and receive instrumental industry mentorship. Her debut presentation was arguably one of the buzziest happenings on the sparse London schedule.
Saunders presents a vision of deconstructing the conventions of contemporary black masculinity. Typically presented in a hyper-masculine manner, her aim is to challenge the stereotypes. I interviewed Saunders about her graduate collection from the master’s program at the Royal College of Art, last summer. Speaking about her work, she said “It’s about these personal conversations with black masculinity in reaction to [men’s] personal style that leads these characters to be challenged from having feminine nuances.”
She continued to echo this for Spring 2019. Entitled ‘Gestures’, the show continued her exploration into black male identity in the context of British culture.
The show had ruffled shirting referencing historical dress, patterned shirts unbuttoned from the bottom pervading a sexy edge, but it wasn’t confined to subtle feminine nuances. There was conventional menswear in there too. Boxer shorts for starters; leather trousers; white t-shirts were unskilled with a drawstring effect, continuing on from her graduate collection—the subtle reworking of a ubiquitous item in men’s wardrobes has become somewhat of a signature, appearing both here and her graduate collection. A white workman's trench was the highlight for its relaxed aura.
The insouciant vibe was owed to the creased fabrics, which weren’t actually creased. It was a guise created through fabric manipulation. It was as if they'd been left in a beside pool overnight and thrown on the following morning. There was something both familiar and underdressed about it.
What makes Saunders’ work so appealing is the gentleness, a poetic lightness that is hard to define. Undoubtedly, perhaps due to the predominately black rap music scene, popular culture’s image of black masculinity is framed in a hyper masculine light. She deconstructed that hardened exterior through a soft colour palette comprised mainly of white and loose silhouettes.
With only two seasons behind her I’m curious to see how she develop her narrative and design handwriting. It’s good she kept things small and refined. This level of restraint is necessary for emerging brands, it allows them to perfect and polish a smaller output than display an unfinished and messy larger collection.