We’ve teamed up with the British Fashion Council on “How To Become”, a video series spotlighting careers in fashion.
Favourite look from AW20 collection/BIANCA SAUNDERS
Favourite look from AW20 collection/BIANCA SAUNDERS
Introducing our brand new video series “How To Become”, spotlighting only the most innovative and boundary-pushing names in fashion. We’ve teamed up with the British Fashion Council to explore careers in fashion and their unusual trajectories, with trailblazing talent interviewed by Wonderland’s Editor-in-Chief Toni-Blaze.
Watch the interview now, or read a shortened version of the interview below…
Welcome to the BFC x Wonderland “How to Become” series. My name is Toni-Blaze Ibekwe and I’m Editor-in-chief of Wonderland magazine and I’m joined by the gorgeous amazing menswear designer Bianca Saunders. Bianca, thank you so much for joining me on the platform, I’m so excited to talk about your journey in menswear and just kind of like your rise into fashion. How have you remained creative during this time?
Reading, drawing a lot more, as before I was literally just rushing around. So designing was kind of like rushed into one small schedule and I guess just having time to think has been really important for me.
How was it growing up in South London?
I remember being younger with my friends and we’d go to like Bromley to shop and then having the journey of the first time going to West End was like a massive experience, or the first time going to like Selfridges which is something that I really remember and I think that’s what really excited me about luxury fashion.
In terms of being from Caribbean/Jamaican decent, how has that influenced your work today?
Being Caribbean is something I continuously try to put in my work whether its a bit more subtle or a bit more out there. If you look at my Autumn/Winter 20 collection it was based around dancehall culture, looking at artists like Shabba Ranks, I used quite a few of his references in my research and then just the idea of like kind of showing off like showing your outfits and being in front of the camera was what really focused my research and then looking back at like old 90s videos. I remember when I was younger my dad always used to buy them and we’d watch them to see who was in the video and being shouted out on the microphone. So that sort of vibrancy, I try to make it underlying in the collections, some of them a bit more quieter, some of them might have been based around like the Caribbean home. I did that for my graduate collection and when I graduated from Kingston and I was looking at rudeboy culture and focusing it on like my uncles and their sort of style.
What is it that you love about the Caribbean culture?
I think just mostly the musical influences. Even being in the studio, like making my interns listen to Blood Orange, to, I don’t know, Sanchez or something like that. I hope it shows more in new collections to come, especially now that I’m hoping to move into runway, that’s more based on the music and more based on people.
Favourite look from SS20 collection/Craig Green
(MIDDLE) Inspiration Jamaican dancehall musician Shabba Ranks
Inspiration Jamaican dancehall musician Shabba Ranks
Tell us about some early inspirations…
When I first started looking at menswear I really admired, or still to this day, I admire Craig Green, I feel like he did a lot in terms of like making me love Mens Fashion Week. Like his creativity and what he’s actually done turning his designs from on the runway to being in store. The fact that he is a really nice person too is very admirable because in fashion there’s always this thing like oh you have to be mean to get to a certain position. And then I look at people like Marc Jacobs in terms of I guess becoming a creative director and having his own brand.
What advice would you give to someone trying to get into art school?
Speak to other young people. And it’s not always about like networking your way up the ladder when it comes to fashion, you need to like show that your talent actually works and you actually can, I’d say, compete with the rest. So its more about just showing that you have a voice and opinions so creating a portfolio that is really honest, and creating a portfolio that is very well researched and really explored in terms of creativity.
Why menswear? How did you decide it was for you?
I was looking at a lot of like menswear references, and finding vintage pieces that I found really interesting, and a lot of my research was based around menswear. Then a tutor that I had was like, why don’t you try menswear. So I went away and then designed this collection based around the rudeboy culture. I interviewed some of my mum’s cousins about their life, and my aunt owned a lace store in Deptford Market and had like a lot of lace detailing in it, it was based around her five sons who are a part of a band, and I guess using those references really made me think about introducing my own culture. I was googling people from my own background being Caribbean, and I was like why am I looking so far when its so near.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I would say that it’s based around deconstructing tailoring but then its a little bit more minimalistic, I try to balance it by using masculinity and like having a feminine edge. It started out appealing to guys within my friendship group that I felt that had feminine nuances in terms of body language and just using that and trying to transform it into clothes. I felt like there was a lot of people that kind of existed but were being slightly missed out, it’s like it’s either really masculine or really overtly feminine and I just really wanted to create a guy that existed in between in my clothing.
And this idea of black masculinity – why do you feel like that was so important to you?
At the time it was like 2017 and there was a lot of conversation about trying to show a softer image of the black male. I really wanted to create clothing that had a nuance of maybe like showing a bit of skin and giving the male access to pull down their zip or maybe like having a vest on top of things, and creating ruffles in places and then using feminine techniques like drape and introducing tailoring where the shoulder pads sit on top and then you could also see the natural shoulder come through was really important for me and then I kind of kept the colour palette very like normal and everyday because I was thinking about like, black guys around me not necessarily wearing the brightest of colours.
Bianca Saunders (PICTURED)
Bianca Saunders (PICTURED)
In terms of accolades, obviously you were listed on the Forbes 30 under 30 list, which is amazing – how does it feel?
I feel like I’m still not over it. Forbes is such a household name so its so easy to be like to my parents I’m on the list. It was a huge boost in confidence for myself because I think at the time I was like I’m actually tired of this whole fashion thing, it’s been so hard I’m like literally like struggling to make every single ball like stay in the air moment, but seeing that, and I didn’t think people were even looking my way – it has been really important to me.
For young people looking to get into the industry, what advice would you give to them?
Definitely get experience, as much experience as you can get. I wish I’d spent more time working under certain designers and how different businesses work. Also learn how to be professional, like how to write professional emails. This industry is definitely a network in terms of how you get to meet people, there’s some people that I’ve stayed in contact with who I went on internships with and they’re working with companies that I really admire, so it’s nice seeing that and nice being able to go on Instagram and remember certain things.
What do you love about London Fashion Week?
There’s nothing like seeing a collection in person, and then some people come away from shows crying or like having some sort of feeling of joy, people don’t really remember like drops that much unless you’re actually like standing outside of a store and there in person to like wait for it. So that sort of excitement and that sort of glitz and glamour is what attracted them to their careers in the first place.
Where do you see the future of menswear going now at the moment?
I think about the normalisation of women designing for men, because it’s so normalised for men to design for women, so like seeing more women design for men is something I’m really looking forwards to.
What do you hope for yourself in the future?
I really want Bianca Saunders to become like a household name. I want it to become recognisable to people all over the world, not just in London because I feel like it’s quite London-based, me being British. I want to be able to walk down the street and see someone wearing my clothes. And it’s become a part of my goal list, expanding it into womenswear, and hopefully one day but at the moment my mission is just to conquer menswear.
Who would be your dream to dress?
At the moment definitely Frank Ocean, and I’d say Steve Lacy definitely, they’re like my ideal ideal characters.
Bianca I want to thank you so much for joining me on the BFC x Wonderland “How to Become” series…
I just hope that people really remember this conversation, like there’s so many epic things I’ve seen between editors and that’s changed my life.