Wales Bonner

THE BLACK BRITISH DESIGNERS SHAPING MENSWEAR

THE BLACK BRITISH DESIGNERS SHAPING MENSWEAR

by Juliette Eleuterio
7 min
Wales Bonner SS21 Fashion Campaign Editorial
Wales Bonner ©

Would menswear be the same if it weren’t for the talented Black British designers who have been and are still often overlooked by the industry? Simple answer, no. These designers have had, and continue to have an undeniable impact on the way men dress. Redefining what it means to be British, Black designers have always taken London Fashion Week by storm, illustrating to everyone their clear talent. With that in mind, we have compiled a list of nine Black British menswear designers, who have shaped and will continue to shape menswear fashion.

Joe Casely-Hayford

Joe Casely-Hayford became one of the first Black British fashion designers to attain mainstream success, truly paving the road for many talented Black designers to come. The designer started his namesake brand in the 80s, after graduating from Saint Martins School of Art in 1979. Partnering with his wife to create his collections, the brand initially specialized in shirting and upcycled military tents turned garments. Casely-Hayford’s success secured him several British fashion Council nominations, though snubbed of the awards. The brand quickly grew a large fan base, which included Princess Diana and Lou Reed. In 2009, Joe Casely-Hayford joined forces with his son Charlie to create “Casely-Hayford”, a brand which merged Joe’s decades of work and Charlie’s fresh outlook on youth culture. Although he sadly passed away in 2019, he has left an undeniable legacy and impact in fashion, carried on by his son.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Casely-Hayford (@caselyhayfordlondon)

Ozwald Boateng

In 2003, Ozwald Boateng was appointed artistic director at Givenchy, becoming the first Black man at the head of a French Maison’s design team, pathing the way for Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton and Rihanna at LVMH’s Fenty. The self-taught designer of Ghanaian descent had been making a name for himself for two decades previous to his appointment through his immaculate tailoring and use of vibrant colours. In fact, Boateng owns, to this day, the only Black-owned business in London’s infamous Savile Row. He also created costumes for many TV shows, including Sex and the City. This designer was a pioneer of early 2000s fashion and his influence on menswear is still felt to this day.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Ozwald Boateng (@ozwald_boateng)

Priya Ahluwalia

South London designer Priya Ahluwalia explores her Indian and Nigerian roots, redefining what ‘British’ really means. Known for giving vintage and deadstock clothing a second life, her sustainable designs showcased during London Fashion Week caught the eye of LVMH. This led her to win the joint annual prize for Young Fashion Designers in 2020. Most recently, Ahluwalia showcased her first short film “Joy” at GucciFest. Ahluwalia is changing the game like no other, easily making her one of our generation’s most promising designers.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Ahluwalia (@ahluwalia)

Martine Rose

Another South-Londoner, Martine Rose has quickly climbed the ranks and has become a fan favourite amongst Gen Z. Since the launch of her eponymous brand in 2009, Martine Rose has often collaborated with fashion giants such as Nike. Often referred to as a streetwear brand, the garments created by this designer are a fresh take on ready-to-wear. The designer’s influence and talent have been recognized beyond her brand, as she became a menswear consultant for Balenciaga for three years. Here’s to hoping for her future appointment to lead a luxury brand. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Martine Rose (@martine_rose)

Cameron Williams

Cameron Williams became an instant hit after showing his final MA collection at Central Saint Martins just last year. Inspired by his West-African heritage, his garments were disruptive yet flawlessly crafted. Soon after, the young designer started his own brand named “Nuba”, after a derogatory name to generalise the Nilotic tribe of the Nuba Mountains of Sudan by Arab traders and settlers. Always drawing inspiration from his Indegenous ancestry, Williams wishes to, in his words, create a brand, and eventually a world, “without tokenism, fetishism or colourism”. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by ???? by cameron (@cmrnw)

Grace Wales Bonner

Also graduating from CSM in 2014, the talented Grace Wales Bonner created a defining graduate collection titled “Afrique”. As she explored Black identity through menswear clothing, Wales Bonner quickly found the core value of her brand. Since then, she has won countless fashion prizes, including the LVMH prize for Young Fashion Designers in 2016. Perhaps what put the Wales Bonner name into mainstream media was her collaboration with Adidas, an authentic merge of the two brands which has seen great success. Royal family member Meghan Markle has also been seen wearing a custom Wales Bonner design. An impressive score for the 29-year-old designer. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Wales Bonner (@walesbonner)

Bianca Saunders

Initially inspired by Jamaican dancehall culture, Bianca Saunders incorporates feminine elements into menswear fashion. Graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2017, the young designer began showing at London Fashion Week a year later. Her FW20 collection became the talk of the town when male models were seen walking down the runway in figure-hugging and sheer outfits, exploring a new masculine expression of sexuality. She recently collaborated with Wrangler to create up-cycled pieces for SS21, revisiting the rugged denim cowboy look. There is no doubt Saunders will continue to rise the ranks and break down gender norms as she redefines 21st-century masculinity.

Samuel Ross

The well renowned A-COLD-WALL founder Samuel Ross did not initially intend to become a fashion designer. Originally studying graphic design and illustration at De Montfort University, Ross developed his knowledge and passion for the fashion industry after being taken under Abloh’s wing to assist him at Off-White in 2013 as well as assisting at Yeezy. In 2015, the designer launched his own brand which many have titled a ‘streetwear’ brand. Not a fan of the term, Ross believes it is just fashion’s replacement for the word ‘urban’, a term called out by rapper Tyler, The Creator at last year’s Grammy awards for its racist undertones. Nonetheless, Ross’ brand, which made over £1 million in revenue in 2017, is now a staple in the world of fashion.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by A-COLD-WALL* (@acoldwall)

Nicholas Daley

The recent CSM graduate blends his father’s Jamaican heritage and his mother’s Scottish upbringing into multi-sensory garments. Weaving in fashion, music and culture, Daley merges reggae and punk rock music, whilst elevating musicians from his own community. As he says “It’s the three Cs — community, craftsmanship and culture — that are the backbone of what my brand is about.” Keep your eyes peeled for this talented designer’s work, as well as his creative collaborators, as he never fails to deliver. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Nicholas Daley (@nicholas_daley)

in other news

Comment

JOIN THE CULTED COMMUNITY TO GET THE LATEST ON FASHION, ART AND CULTURE