(Re)introducing Bianca Saunders
Winner of the 2021 ANDAM Prize, Bianca Saunders wants to reintroduce her brand with Fall-Winter 2022, which she is presenting in Paris for the first time. However, her thrilling work needs little introduction. The ascendant designer’s menswear is known for straddling masculine and feminine energy; subtle manipulations of silhouettes that roll shoulders forward; distort lines and exaggerate tailoring; and the enigmatic ability to transcend time associations.
Partly, this collection recalls previously explored themes like her Jamaican heritage, masculinity, and gender. Building on last season’s introduction of knitwear, London-based Saunders introduces machine-engineered jersey turtlenecks and lounge pants.
New directions reveal themselves in the guise of folds and exposed darts and stitches which trace interesting lines across the body. Meanwhile, her signature patterns take a textural approach, imprinted warped and stretched images of fabricweaves across clothes. Fabric experimentation includes a newly developed leather, whose vintage-inspired cracked exterior belies a soft surface and lightweight finish. This season, her palette span a refined mix of black, white, khaki green in addition to red and Yves Klein blue.
“I like things that appear familiar but are also unfamiliar,” she said over Zoom from her London studio.
What would you like us to know about this collection?
The show is a continuation of my last collection. I was looking into contouring around the body and how clothes and prints stretch over certain areas. It’s about creating an illusion of how I want certain things to be emphasised, like where the body will move around clothes, like the folds on pullovers, stretching lines across space, showing stitch or weave lines. I think I will apply more skills as a textile designer in this collection. It was focused much more on the design than the actual concept. I don’t want it to just stand for one point in time but something that when you buy into it, you feel like you’ll have it forever.
Had you dreamed of becoming a designer?
Yeah. It’s very surreal because this was once my dream and now it’s a reality. I’ve been thinking a lot about how designers come out at the end of the show and see the audience, and it’s going to be a very big moment for me. The development of this collection was extensive. It’s taken this long to get the ideas I explored in the beginning right and it feels a bit like I’m starting again because I spent my whole life in London and presented collections there. Paris is on a different scale and I want to push my brand in a different direction.
Have you always dreamt of doing a catwalk show?
I would say so. Before the pandemic happened, I had intended for my next season to be a show to see some sort of movement with the clothes. There’s the excitement of being there and feeling as though you had never experienced something, and it doesn’t get lost in your memory, you still talk about it. But I directed a film as well for the people who aren’t able to come to the show. It came together quite quickly after Christmas.
Appearance vs reality is a cornerstone of your work. How do you think that tension informs your work?
People are still getting their head around Bianca Saunders being a menswear brand with me being a woman and the main conversation around my brand being based on the balance of masculine and feminine energy in terms of the design aesthetic. What’s nice about that is the clothes can be for men, but women can also look at them and think they can wear them. I like the idea that a garment becomes useful and not redundant.
Do you get creative ideas from your sleeping dreams or daydreams?
Definitely more in the beginning. But now, I just go along and spend a lot of time thinking about the process. I mostly dream about the work I’m going to do the next day, which is terrible because it means I never get any sleep. It’s always on my mind.
Name someone whose own dreams have inspired you?
There’s a range of people. I admire how Rick Owens has developed a world where it’s entirely his world – every single part is decided by him. That’s really important to have that aspect of being a creative director and also being a designer. Phoebe Philo has had a massive impact, still. Of course, people like Ozwald Boateng, establishing himself as a tailor on Savile Row when he did, was quite radical.
Do you have a dream that remains unfulfilled?
The next step is developing more accessories and moving towards other parts of design outside of fashion. A few years ago, I did a zine and I’d like to do more special projects like that, more of the story around the brand. Early on in my career, I wanted to be multidisciplinary, but I realised it wasn’t possible to do it all at once. Now, I see I can do one thing at a time.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.