When I first saw Grace Wales Bonner’s designs, I was taken by her sense of history. Young Black men walked along a flower-lined runway adorned with charms and pendants reminiscent of those worn by men from Ghanaian photographs I’d seen only in faded black-and-white or sepia prints. Her work reminded me of literary figures—in and around it, I saw echoes of oft-ignored titans such as Samuel Delany, Ishmael Reed, and Chester Himes. This is not the aesthetic of most ready-to-wear menswear designers. At a moment when capitalism is at its loudest, dissuading young artists from making art when content is easier to consume, she is a true artist—multidisciplined and unabashedly curious.
She was also aptly named. Her surname, Wales Bonner, invokes a sense of regality, stature, and speaks to the complex history of the Jamaican diaspora. Her first name, Grace, is defined as “simple elegance or refinement of movement.” This is in the DNA of every aspect of her artistry.
Harris is a Tony-nominated playwright
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