LVMH Winner Grace Wales Bonner And Delphine Arnault Pose For Karl Lagerfeld

LVMH Winner Grace Wales Bonner And Delphine Arnault Pose For Karl Lagerfeld

Designer Grace Wales Bonner sits down with Delphine Arnault after winning the luxury conglomerate’s career-making prize

Designer Grace Wales Bonner sits down with Delphine Arnault after winning the luxury conglomerate’s career-making prize

Photography: Karl Lagerfeld

Text: Nick Remsen

Delphine Arnault—the Executive Vice President of Louis Vuitton—says that the work of Grace Wales Bonner retains a “creativity in its own class.” Those are big words, but Wales Bonner is no small talent. In fact, she is the recipient of the 2016 LVMH Prize, an initiative that Ms. Arnault helped to devise just a few short years ago, and one that’s already gained critical momentum when it comes to thrusting young designers’ names into the global limelight.

Per LVMH’s website, the prize was conceived to “honour and support young fashion designers around the world.” In a video, Arnault outlines the requirements for applying: a potential contestant must be under 40, he or she must design ready-to-wear for men, women, or both, and he or she must have already produced at least two full collections. In winning, Wales Bonner has received 300,000 euros in award money, and will be mentored over the next year by LVMH professionals. (You probably already know this, but LVMH is the French conglomerate with Marc Jacobs, Fendi, Givenchy, Loewe, Céline, and more under its umbrella).

Arnault and company (judges include Karl Lagerfeld, Nicolas Ghesquière, and Phoebe Philo, among others) bestowed the artful designer Thomas Tait with the first title in 2014. The next year, the accolade went to Marques’Almeida, the label founded by the Portuguese duo of Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida, which first became known for destroyed—yet supremely chic—denim treatments.


Grace Wales Bonner, who is of British and Jamaican descent, faced the toughest competition yet: for 2016’s contest, nearly 1,000 hopefuls applied from over 50 countries. Of the 23 semi-finalists selected, 8 finalists got through. “I was very emotional,” says Wales Bonner about her win. “I can now build the infrastructure around my brand.” Her output has stirred up hype and adoration thanks to its intelligent blend of Anglo-Afro-Caribbean influences, as well as her fresh take on silhouette and line—she’s technically a menswear designer, but her clothes have a post-gender fluidity and pomp. Arnault calls her collection “brilliant, precise and modern.”

As it happens, the LVMH Prize jury felt that Wales Bonner can and should develop a dedicated womenswear component—there are plenty of women already wearing her garments, anyway. Spring 2017, her first independently presented collection after being in the London-based Fashion East and MAN incubators, paid homage to the panache of Haile Selassie, the late Ethiopian emperor. “The influence of Selassie’s ceremonial attire permeates classical dress,” said Wales Bonner’s show notes. That she could make a cowrie shell and crystal-embellished cape or a white silken shirtdress look of-the-moment speaks volumes to her merit. Wales Bonner is designing from an instinctive prism and working from a deeply personal passion to create clothes that are not only freshly natty, but also blazingly smart. We’re psyched to see what she does with her well-deserved windfall


Makeup Tom Pecheux (Home Agency)  Hair Marc Orsatelli (Agence Aurelien)  Model Jermaine Downer (D1 Models) Image Direction Eric Pfrunder, Katherine Marre, Alice Cadaux  Manicure Anny Errandonea (Marie-France Thavonekham) Photography contact Océane Sellier and Alexandra Hylén  Photo assistants Olivier Saillant, Bernwald Sollich, Frédéric David, Xavier Arias  Makeup assistant Ania Grzeszczuk  Retouching Ludovic D’Hardiville


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