The show opened with Bonner’s latest collaboration: a T-shirt emblazoned with a painting by Kerry James Marshall, worn over voluminous, flowing shorts. A statement that there are new masters in the city built by and for the old ones. Bonner has made artistic collaboration a central theme of her creative practice, drawing on contemporaries like Eric N. Mack and Tyler Mitchell to help her build out her aesthetic universe. (Both Mack and Mitchell sat in the main courtyard of the palace for the show.) To set the stage in the palace, Bonner worked with the Ghaniana artist Ibrahim Mahama, who covered every inch of the marble floor—and many of the walls—with jute sacks sourced from markets in his home country. It was important, Bonner said, to feel the physicality of African traditions in the space. And it reflected a laser focus on craft that came through in the clothes.
Most shows at Pitti Uomo skew tailoring heavy, and Bonner took the opportunity to unveil her best suiting yet, developed with Savile Row stalwart Anderson & Sheppard. A cashmere tuxedo worn with leopard-print babouches—part of Wales Bonner’s first in-house footwear line—felt fit for a modern day princeling, as did straight silk opera coats tailored out of silk jacquard specially made by Charvet in Paris. Wales Bonner x Adidas is great, but Wales Bonner x Anderson & Sheppard is low-key the coolest collaboration in fashion. Speaking of, this season the silver and patent black Three Stripes sneakers were handmade, football boots constructed like benchmade dress shoes. “They’re made in [the Adidas] atelier in Germany, so it’s all kind of hand-stitched using more like gentlemen’s footwear making techniques,” said Bonner. “That has been quite consistent with my approach with Adidas—trying to bring a kind of tailored sensibility, a rigorous way of making sportswear,” she added. Bonner’s clothes have always been dignified and elegant, which can be a hard sell these days, when the loudest clothing often gets the most attention. She’s figured out how to do something much harder—to make subtle, beautiful clothing feel not just eye-catching, but urgent and essential, too.
The collection was a celebration of sartorial techniques and traditions from outside Europe, too. Joining the high tailoring were handmade necklaces of baroque pearls and Ghanian glass beads, part of Bonner’s new jewelry collection, and billowy capris woven in Burkina Faso that set the bar extremely high for any designer showing shorts this season. “It’s this conversation around hand-making and craft across places that was quite important,” she said. “Just putting everything on the same level and celebrating it that way.”
And there were more killer evolutions of Wales Bonner staples, like blousy, deconstructed tuxedo shirts with sick studded collars. Campus clothing has been a recurring theme in Bonner’s collections, and a varsity jacket with more metal studding down the buttery leather sleeves reached a new level of luxury.