Iam a fashion designer,” says 28-year-old Londoner Grace Wales Bonner, “doing an art show, which could be seen as … ” She looks away as she searches for the right word. It’s approaching midday and we’re sitting in Chucs, the cafe and restaurant housed in the Zaha Hadid-designed extension to the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London, having walked around her new exhibition. The fine-featured artist is wearing Céline earrings and a white shirt from her Wales Bonner line, with colourful, crocheted cuffs that, she says, resemble stuff her gran would have in the house. “ … Silly,” she finally says.
Silly? For some in the fashion business, silliness is their raison d’etre. Not Wales Bonner, though. For the past four years she has created the kind of beautifully layered, finely cut, deeply referential clothing that’s so beautiful it has ended up in a few of the best shops in the world, and so brainy that it comes with its own reading list. Now, she has repurposed that aesthetic sense and sensibility into a smart, weighty, fine-art gallery exhibition. There’s no room for silliness. In fact, Wales Bonner appears to regard silliness in pretty much the same way that Superman regards kryptonite.
On graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2014, this brilliant designer won the L’Oréal Professionnel Talent award. In 2015 she picked up emerging menswear designer at the British fashion awards. The following year it was the LVMH young designer prize, and in 2018 she won the British Land London emerging design medal.