Give Grace Wales Bonner Everything


Of all the designers working in fashion today, Grace Wales Bonner is truly a designer’s designer. Little wonder she’s added to the running — even if only in rumor — every time a high-profile creative director gig opens up at any major fashion house.

And, every time, Wales Bonner would make a worthy selection. But who’s to say she even wants to be?

Founded in 2014, Wales Bonner’s eponymous brand has been critically acclaimed practically since inception — she’s won multiple Fashion Award prizes since 2015 and 2016’s LVMH Prize — and, thanks to remarkably prescient adidas collaborations that began in 2020, it achieved fame to match right before it turned 10.

Yes, primarily because of Wales Bonner’s sublime Samba sneakers, even non-fashion-minded folks now know what the British designer’s more ardent followers have known for years: Wales Bonner is a pre-eminent talent.

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As such, Wales Bonner’s name constantly comes up in the industry’s omnipresent creative director debates. That is, because the folks who oversee the artistic direction of fashion’s most powerful companies are constantly coming and going, public wagering over who’s next in line (or ought to be next in line) often reaches fantasy sports league levels.

After Virginie Viard departed Chanel, for instance, digital guessing games began: surely Hedi Slimane is getting the gig! No, wait, Jeremy Scott!

Wales Bonner was, of course, also in purported contention.

And that’s just the most recent example. Wales Bonner has been cited as a likely successor for pretty much every major creative director role of the past half-decade. She was, for instance, alleged to be in the running for lead creative roles at Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy and even Dior, where Wales Bonner previously partnered with womenswear overseer Maria Grazia Chiuri (who has not vacated her gig, by the way).

Rumblings of Wales Bonner’s ascendancy to the creative director role of the month are so frequent that their existence was glossed over in a late 2023 profile otherwise dedicated to the designer’s recent MoMA exhibit.

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It makes sense; everyone is rooting for Wales Bonner.

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She’s so much more than a canny adidas designer (though she is also that): Wales Bonner’s eponymous clothing line stews together disparate menswear pulls — Saville Row tailoring, dancehall sportswear, the wardrobe of Augustus Pablo — into a cohesive, approachable notion of contemporary luxury.

In Wales Bonner’s world, throwback track jackets are worn over pearl-buttoned shirts or under trim knitted cardigans. Poplin tunics might wear collegiate-style branding and leather-sleeved varsity jackets mingle with velvet slacks and athletic shorts are reimagined as a statement piece.

Hers is a vision of fine fashion that isn’t full of itself. Sportswear elevated to the realm of sartorial excellence.

As such, Wales Bonner’s eye for approachable, covetable aspiration makes her amply worthy to lead a maison keen to capture the hearts and minds of young shoppers.

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But would she even want to work for them?

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Imminently suave celebrities like Yasiin Bey, Solange and Kendrick Lamar already go directly to Wales Bonner for custom looks while her adored adidas collabs abundantly demonstrate her saleable design acumen at unignorable scale.

Wales Bonner’s own brand is as commercially potent as it is institutionally admired. And perhaps most importantly, Wales Bonner represents fashion’s youth vote. Both the brand and the 33-year-old designer herself dually epitomize a new wave.

To work at a luxury label owned by LVMH, Kering, Richemont or other multi-billion juggernaut would be to give up a great deal of the autonomy that’s allowed Wales Bonner to develop her unique proposition of real-world luxury.

Perhaps a few years ago, before the adidas boom, it might’ve made sense for Wales Bonner to take a high-profile gig if only to shine a brighter light on the Wales Bonner brand. But no need anymore.

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By now, in fact, those fashion houses need Wales Bonner more than she needs them.

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