Bianca Saunders SS21 asks: What makes the ideal man?
Inspired by ballroom culture, Black masculinity and the photography of Hans Eijkelboom, The Ideal Man is all about allowing you to dress up as who you want to be.
Photography Silvia Draz
What does your ideal man look like? That’s the question that, in 1978, Dutch photographer Hans Eijkelboom put to a group of women, before dressing up as whatever they said their ‘type’ was for a series of self-portraits. It got Bianca Saunders asking herself: ‘What’s mine?’ Less in terms of what she’s looking for in a lover, more with respect to the men that, season after another, she returns to the drawing board to create a new wardrobe for. “It's literally just me thinking of my customers and creating aspirational ideals for them, getting them to push themselves into these characters,” she explains. This collection is the result of her realisation that her ideal type is irreducible, plural; it’s “about the characters and people that I set my work out to be for”, about “the guy that I want to buy my stuff and who I want to support the brand, and to feel seen and supported by it.”
Allowing men to express identity in all its in-between complexity has long been a driving motive of Bianca’s work — a tracksuit trouser might be ruched, for example, subtly femme-ing a stereotypically masculine piece. This season, her focus is on the draped tailored silhouettes that, gradually, have become a brand mainstay. The sleeves of featherlight jackets neatly swaddle the arm, with Bianca’s signature draped shoulder creating an enhanced, confident posture. “I was playing around with creating the effect of a shoulder pad without a shoulder pad; creating draped folds and trying to use the stiffness and the weights of the fabric to maintain that height,” she says. The efficacy of her technique is best exemplified in the polygon-silhouette oversized shirts and relaxed-fit macintosh coats. “I was thinking about photographing them side on so you can see the different shoulder experiments I was doing — that was really the key focus when it came to detailing.”
SS21 also marks Bianca’s first major commercial collaboration, a partnership with cowboy favourite denim brand Wrangler on a capsule of rugged basics with a Bianca spin on them — vests with that signature set-in shoulder, and jeans with twisting seams, not to forget a bleach-effect printed look.
Ballroom culture was another key reference, with particular interest paid to the illustrious House of Montana. This strongly guided the film she’s created with director Daniel Sannwald, choreographed by Saul Nash and styled by Karen Binns, in which three models serve realness in five categories, each exemplifying the Bianca Saunders ideal man: Man Going to his First Ball in Heels; Gangsta Pretending to be Corporate: Super Nerd at Dancehall Concert; College Grad with a Diploma and Gully Queen at his Engagement Party.
“I love films like Paris Is Burning, and I went to a ball in December. When I was researching things, I was thinking of how I could take this idea of movement and performance and transform it onto a stage,” she says, suggesting a dynamic approach reminiscent of her AW20 presentation for Videolight, where boys danced as if alone in their bedrooms. Where that suggested a freedom found in intimate, private spaces, here the effect is more extroverted, louder in its celebration of the men who wear the clothes. “I just like the idea someone just feeling important for the day, and I feel like that's what ballroom culture does for a lot of people,” she says. “When people wear my clothes, I want them to feel comfortable and make the outside world believe that this is how they exist.”