Two years after they first teamed up, shoe legend Manolo Blahnik and rising London menswear star Grace Wales Bonner are joining forces again tonight at London Fashion Week.
Bonner — who is showing during the women’s collections for the first time — plans to make a thought-provoking statement with her artistic designs. The show will explore mysticism, ritual and potential within the black-aesthetic practice, a cultural ideology that developed in America alongside the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Blahnik’s shoes were imagined and developed with three distinct characters that could inhabit this world.
The spiritual healer character is embodied through a colorful beaded slipper, the Mario. Each bead is hand applied and it takes a week to make just one pair, an intricate and detailed process.
The second look, the slip-on Sabot, is decked out in exotic skins or colorful feathers that are all stitched by hand. Blahnik and Wales Bonner said they imagined this style for a flamboyant, peacock male, perhaps a trader in a West African market.
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Finally, Blahnik’s classic lace-up brogues, in black, green and red, were crafted with the intellectual student from Howard University in mind.
The shoes are an evolution of previous Blahnik styles, but they have all been reimagined for the show. The collection will be available at select Manolo Blahnik stores in June.
The partnership between Blahnik and Bonner evolved out of mutual respect and a desire to work with each other. “Grace has a special kind of magic to make men’s clothes desirable,” said the shoe designer. “She searches into her roots for inspiration the same way I do.”
Meanwhile, Wales Bonner was specifically attracted to Blahnik’s menswear designs. “I don’t think anyone is making men’s shoes like he is,” she told FN previously.