Bianca Saunders marks her territory at Paris Fashion Week

bianca saunders

By Jason Kwame

If Bianca Saunders’ Paris Fashion Week debut was anything to go by, there’s no doubt that she’s here to leave a lasting impression. 

Fresh from an ANDAM prize win and LVMH prize nomination – amongst many other fashion wins – the British menswear designer’s AW22 show titled “A Stretch” wastes no time in unapologetically letting her presence be known and felt alongside the roster of illustrious designers. The fitting soundbites for both the show and its preview feature heavy, ironically comforting patois spoken by a boy and man. Essentially setting the pace to let viewers & attendees know that what they’re about to experience is menswear immersed in Bianca’s perspective as a Black woman. A perspective that can be enjoyed and shared but is not to be appropriated elsewhere. 

At face value, the show title refers to the contorted and manipulated geometric prints and colour blends on some of the designs featured. It also speaks to the fits and finishes of some of the pieces pushing the needle of menswear. Take the elongated cuffs, necklines and collars that make for a relaxed, romantic and nonconformist feel very much inspired by Afro-Caribbean sophistication and flamboyance. A sample of Jamaican hall of fame artist Mad Cobra and his Flex anthem confirmed that vibe.

Then there was the impeccable yet textured tailoring that we’ve never seen before. Crisply pleated sleeves on a complex blue fabric shirt jacket, a blood-red jacket and trouser set, suit jackets and sweaters with horizontal “pullover” closures, long sleeve jerseys and turtlenecks for a heroic & svelte look, blue denim jeans folded and cinched at the waist resulting in beautifully unorthodox menswear. 

The show acted as yet another confirmation of Bianca’s experimental brand DNA. There is consistency in her attempt to redefine menswear without limit, whether that limit is in the form of frivolous trends or restrictive, outdated ideals. “I want the collection to be timeless – it could be now, it could be the past, it could be the future. It’s not just about one person – I want everyone to see a part of themselves in it”. Saunders passionately tells you about the process of warping fabrics and cuts in an aesthetically pleasing way whilst focusing on accentuating the wearer’s shape. As teased in the brand’s first few presentations, Saunders designs the signature shoulder placement closer to the neck, making an impressive “curved and natural sleeve”. 

But perhaps, it wouldn’t be too far fetched – or a stretch – to suggest that it speaks to Bianca’s active ‘breaking-out’ of the confines of menswear. In particular, expanding and opening space for different ideas of what masculinity looks like and who decides it. Bianca acknowledges that some have difficulty wrapping their heads around a woman designing for men. Funny, since the majority of revered womenswear designers today are male. Saunders proves that it may be time to stretch out of those constructs.

As a former philosophy student and respecter of the Good Book, it’s hard to ignore the references to the biblical idea of “Stretching your tent curtains” — marking your territory on your terms by moving outward confidently, rather than cowering in acceptance.

Undoubtedly, as a designer, Bianca has taken a leap, stretched out of both fashion & social norms and found firm footing from the get-go, as she puts it, “defining her design world” then pushing it forward.

After four seasons presented visually, the brand officially readies itself to be enjoyed internationally. The territory Bianca Saunders sets out for herself, and those like her in the fashion world invites everyone to appreciate and indulge in her reality; respectfully. 

bianca saunders
bianca saunders

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