Bianca Saunders AW20 is a celebration of how normal guys move
Inspired by 90s VHS tapes of dancehall parties, the young London designer infused the same vibrancy and movement into her clothes.
Bianca Saunders’ choice to adorn the walls of the Truman Brewery’s DiscoveryLAB with satin curtains was no throwaway touch. They're a recurring motif for the designer, harking back to frilled, net curtain-esque lacework of her RCA graduate collection. Or, more recently, to the drapes that divided the gallery space in her Black History Month exhibition in Brixton. Indeed, where curtains are seen in her work, thoughts quickly turn to themes of nostalgia, homeliness and intimacy. Their prominence in the set for Videolight, her AW20 collection, naturally invited similar readings, though the energy they contained was bolshier this time around. In each of the five partitioned spaces, a boy moved to a booming dancehall beat, dancing as if alone in his bedroom.
Inspired by dancehall parties from the 90s – a romantically grainy VHS recording of one greeted you on entering the space – Bianca sought to convey the importance of such gatherings to her identity and, by default, to her work. “My work has always inspired by my upbringing and surroundings, so I really wanted to bring the collection back to this central idea of Black Caribbean culture,” she said backstage. “Parties have always been part of that. As part of my research, I trawled YouTube looking at videos of old school dancehall parties. I was really obsessed with the way people moved in front of the camera, and in some videos, there’s a peculiar mismatch between the movement of the background and the foreground.”
This slightly off-kilter feeling was translated into the clothes: padded jackets had wire running through their horizontal seams, seeming to freeze moments of movement. As the models danced, choreographed by fellow RCA alumnus Saul Nash, a curious relationship emerged between the bobbing and shuffling of the dancers and the poses the garments seemed to hold. “I wanted to include this sense of slight distortion in the actual pieces,” she says. “It was about conveying this idea of how people would naturally dress and move at a party, looking at the tones, textures and fabrications that you would typically see.”
Another newly-introduced element for Bianca is colour: fitting, for such celebratory subject matter. While the familiar dusky and neutral tones of her previous collections return, flashes of electric blue on rollnecks and crimson trousers give the collection a welcome extroverted flair. “I was thinking about how I wanted to position myself as a designer, and really wanted to show my development by working with colour,” she says, “but not so much that it’s no longer me, though!”
For all the new in the mix, Bianca has managed to maintain a comfortable sense of familiarity for those that have followed her since the beginning. Elements like the drawstring seams, gentle ruching and moments of sheerness that imply club-friendly flirts with femininity are now defining components of her vocabulary, as is her trademark shoulder point, drawn close to the neck as if to suggest a shoulder hunched in a moment of dance. As complex as the details may seem, her proposal is refreshingly simple: “It’s just about observing how normal guys move in their clothes.”
Photography Mitchell Sams