And here we are! The first-ever digital London Fashion Week. It feels rather peculiar to be sat in our living rooms with a cuppa. We’d usually be heading to the Truman Brewery to feast our eyes on the latest menswear collections. This edition of LFW marks a change in direction. From this day forward, mens- and womenswear will be held under the London Fashion Week umbrella as a gender-neutral event, taking place four times a year. Over the next three days on londonfashionweek.com, designers will be taking part in talks, launching capsule collections and debuting brand new films.
As Black Lives Matter protests continue to take place across the globe, including one today at the Houses of Parliament, it seems quite frivolous to be sat here talking about clothes. Now more than ever we need to be working to amplify the voices of black creatives across the industry. We are lucky here in London to be surrounded by profoundly talented black designers who own their own business. One of whom is the brilliant Bianca Saunders. From her graduate collection from the Royal College of Art back in 2017, right up to her AW20 dancehall-inspired presentation at LFWM’s back in January, Saunders has unpacked and dissected the many layers of black masculinity through her own vision. Her clothes are tender, often ruched and creased in all the right places. She creates mouth-wateringly good leather outerwear in buttery brown leather, and knows how to cut a cracking pair of trousers just so they create the perfect pool around the ankle.
Back in March, Saunders was announced as one of the recipients of Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. And rightfully so. Alongside spearheading her own business, Saunders has thrown fashion week parties and curated her own exhibition, Nearness, which was held in multiple venues inside Brixton market back in October. Featuring the works of photographer Ronan Mckenzie, artist Akinola Davies Jr and poet Caleb Femi, the exhibition united Saunders’ creative community under one roof. “Collaboration has always been central to my work – fashion is a tough industry and we have to support each other,” explains Saunders. “But not only that I have always felt inspired by others, working as a team towards a common goal and bouncing ideas off of each other helps drive your creativity, we can lean on each other’s strengths to create something unique.”
The designer’s collaborative ethos can be seen through her new zine. Entitled We Are One Of The Same, Saunders teamed up with photographer Joshua Woods to explore themes of togetherness, identity and gender, which are all prevalent attributes in Saunders’ oeuvre. “I met Joshua through being introduced to him by Becky from Twin Magazine. We were going to work on a project together. But then it did not match up with timing and planning. Then luckily later in the year I was going on a trip to New York in April 2019. So I thought this was the perfect time for us to meet and also work on something special,” says Saunders. “Looking at Joshua’s work it has a documentary style and I really like how his images connect with people on the other side of the lens.” Shot in New York, the pair worked alongside stylist Matt Holmes and writer/model Jessica Cole to craft a conceptual narrative. “Gender and identity is a theme that runs through all of my collections. We wanted to create some imagery that delved into that a little deeper was something I wanted to do with this project. We looked at the idea of seeing and finding similarities so the idea came up about shooting sets of twins. We worked with Arielle Berman on the casting who found us Mecca and Faheem.”
Clad in fashions from Saunders’ past collections, through the lens of Woods, the twins’ connection is unbreakable. “My favourite image is Mecca and Faheem with their heads resting together, it’s a powerful image, and their similarities are so evident in this one. You can really see how strong their bond is,” says the designer. Tomorrow at 11:30 am, Saunders will join Cole and Woods for a panel discussion with SHOWstudio which will reflect on the importance of creative collaboration. “Our solidarity ebbs and flows through our commonalities and differences,” states Cole. “We are of the same fluidity, nothing is fixed forever, everything changes constantly. We are one of the same moment, yet it is only through our difference in perspective, that we can keep this moment moving forward.”
by Paul Toner