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  • Source: VOGUE
  • Date: FEBRUARY 10, 2018
  • Format: DIGITAL

Wales Bonner and Artist Eric N. Mack Partner on a Special Installation at Totokaelo

Photo: Courtesy of Totokaelo

When Grace Wales Bonner delivers a collection, it isn’t merely clothes—it’s a collection of emotions and cultural references so rich it could be deemed wearable art. (It’s no wonder she won the LVMH Prize in 2016.) The menswear designer, who is English-Jamaican, has swiftly become known for storytelling through fashion, and now she’s bringing her thoughtful approach to retail: Bonner has collaborated with Harlem-based artist Eric N. Mack on a special installation at Totokaelo’s Bowery store in New York City, which debuted earlier today.

Titled “Blue Duets,” it takes cues from Bonner’s Spring 2018 collection, which also just launched at Totokaelo. The duo referenced the show’s inspirations and motifs, riffing off queer black literature, jazz music, photography by Carl Van Vechten, and the color blue. The result is a stunning hanging display of textural fabrics juxtaposed against Totokaelo’s stark interior, which is currently located in the historic Germania Bank Building. “[The installation] is a way for me to understand how to communicate the clothes in a space outside of the show,” said Bonner. “I was considering the idea of a blue mood and attempting to reduce something down to a silhouette. There was also an innate sexuality I wanted to explore, which I feel Eric picks up in the installation. What ties them together essentially is the use of fabric.”

Mack worked off the Spring 2018 collection’s color palette, which was deliberately bare-bones and neutral (save for one fiery red look). “Looking at the color palette was very important,” Mack said. “I took note of the variety of textiles used in the collection—plaids, black satins, leathers, and linens. I begin to consider how these materials could affect space, free from the body.” The eclectic mixture featured handkerchief linens, painted surfaces of a drop cloth, and a fragment of an old quilt.

This isn’t the first time Bonner and Mack have worked together. The duo first met at Duro Olowu’s “Making and Unmaking” exhibit at the Camden Arts Center in London, where they both had featured art works. Just recently, they also teamed up to conceptualize a set for Bonner’s Fall 2018 menswear show. Models in creole sailor-inspired looks walked through a carved path that was inspired by fragments of sails, flags, and market awnings. “What was special about that was Eric and I shared the space together while his artworks and the collection were developing,” Bonner said. “That way, the work could evolve and mirror each other in quite a unique way.”

Labels are increasingly favoring creative approaches to traditional retail. (Vetements creative director Demna Gvasalia, for instance, recently turned the windows at Harrods into a fashion-focused recycling dump—a message on overconsumption and waste.) As for Bonner, she hopes the installation will encourage shops to continue adopting innovative showcase tactics. “I was really excited to see [Totokaelo’s] new Bowery space,” she said, “and how that can inform new ways of thinking about the consumer experience.”