Wales Bonner Captures the Essence of Black Strength in Jamaica

Wales Bonner Captures the Essence of Black Strength in Jamaica

by Aaron Royce

Since her breakout arrival in 2014, Grace Wales Bonner has been a key figure of Britain's new guard of multicultural creatives that express their heritage through clothing. Naturally, this ethos took center stage this morning in Essence, her Spring 2021 collection shown in Jeano Edwards' digital short film, Thinkin Home. (This also marks her Paris Fashion Week debut.)

The LVMH Prize Winner's signature mix of Afro-Atlantic and European inspirations are especially present in Essence. An all-Black lineup of models — Aakesh Henderson, Jonny Baele, Romaine Dixon, Selah Mehail, Val Haughton and Winston Lawrence — made up the cast, shot on-location in the town of Portmore, Jamaica. Composed of unfiltered frames, ranging from Fort Clarence Beach to Portmore houses, the clothes are a strong component of the film — but not its sole focus.

Viewers are meant to appreciate Portmore's natural beauty and town settings alongside Essence — composed of silhouettes from her London education and Jamaican influences of color and ease — which makes for a soft, vibrant experience. Baele walks a horse down the Beach in a purple and yellow T-shirt and shorts from Bonner's third adidas Originals collaboration. Henderson dons a colorblocked black and yellow bomber jacket while riding a red motorcycle through winding, empty roads. Lawrence wears a sharply tailored blue and gray blazer, a Bonner menswear signature. Interspersed with shots of crashing waves, empty town streets and calm ocean waters, the film concludes with clips of a serene waterfall.

Set to a score by James William Blades that includes H.D. Carberry's "Poetry Nature" and Lee Scratch Perry's "Jah," the film is lush and powerful. (The other musicians include Cedric and Stephen Gibson Jonathan Gibson on cello and Oliver Mayo on violin.)Bonner's carefully constructed clothing, seen in a variety of settings, is cast in a versatile light — whether in a natural or more urban environment, it can clearly be worn anywhere.

However, the strength that Essence pieces give their wearers is what truly draws the eye. The models look focused, determined and strong throughout — which Bonner's collection both encapsulates and accentuates. Whether it's structured suiting or a bright pair of athletic shorts, these are clothes that bring forth the wearer's inner strength.

Bonner is showing that, through understanding and appreciation for her family's Jamaican roots, her clothes honor her heritage and have the ability to empower. In the times we're living in, this is more important than ever.

You can view Thinkin Home, below.

Photos courtesy of Wales Bonner