Since completing her MA at the prestigious Royal College of Art and Design, 24 year old Bianca Saunders has been busy making a name for herself in London's vibrant emerging menswear scene. Her namesake label has already produced two collections - "London Is The Place for Me" and "Personal Politics." Combining fashion with zines, films, exhibitions, and ethnographic research, Bianca explores the complexities of identity - particularly black masculinity - within her community.
Speaking to Couturesque about these influences, as well as friendship, collaboration, and cultural movements, Bianca's intellectual voice resonates as a confirmed must-watch among young British designers.
Tia: I recently spent 3 and a half months living in London and, wow, I was so shocked by the spirit of mutual support in the British fashion industry for young talent, at least compared to my experiences in different North American markets. What has London been like for you as a creative environment, and how would you describe the community you are a part of?
Great! London is home to me. I do go out a lot to different parties, events, and gallery openings. In this process naturally I’ve made a lot of friends who have now become my creative collaborators. I have also spent a long time in education in London so it has become easier for me to stay connected with the friends I have met along the way.
Tia: How did you meet your friends in the industry – through school, working, etc.? How have those relationships impacted your path?
Most of my other friends have been through education. I went straight from my A Levels, to Foundation, then to BA, then to MA… that is a lot of people you meet along the way! These relationships have kept me inspired [and] it so moving to see how much people have grown creatively. I have also had a lot of jobs in retail, where I have made really good friends - I think for the fact that you spend such a long time with them on the shop floor. Most people that I have worked with were building towards their dream and I think it has inspired me to keep going with what I am currently working on. It also gave me a break away from the stress of the fashion design course.
Tia: For your Personal Politics collection, you also presented an accompanying film and zine in collaboration with lots of friends and artists. Why is it important to you to include others’ voices and how do those collaborations usually come about?
Research is an important part to me, and so is being authentic. I wanted to work with some really talented people and have a communal voice of different opinions on the subject. Especially when talking about Black masculinity as I am not a male, I realised that there was a lot of people out there who had their own conversations going within their own work. It’s great when you have people on board who truly understand what you are working on and it is much better when you actually know the people.
Tia: You draw quite regularly on your community and family from your childhood, in and around South London. Can you talk about that interaction, between your roots and your designs?
I think it just comes with finding what is special about my surroundings and using it as inspiration. There is so much around us but we don't look into what is already there.
Tia: You’ve also been a contributor at showStudio. How did that opportunity come about and what has being a part of that family been like?
I was really surprised when I got the invite. I was thinking the same thing, how did they find me? Georgina Evans, showStudio, Fashion Editor contacted me to do the "Best In Show" series, then I got invited to do the panel sessions. I think they saw my Permission Film which I done with Akinola (@crackstevens). It is great being a part of it and the whole team is really nice. I meet new people every panel session; it is great to connect with people you don't usually cross paths with. I'm still getting use to being in front of the camera or on the screen as I am quite shy.
Tia: If you had to design a dream team of 3 people, living or dead, to work with, who would they be (and briefly, why?)
1. Marc Jacobs. I really do admire everything he has done. He is a great designer and fantastic creative director, previously for Louis Vuitton and with what he is currently doing for his own brand. 2. Arthur Jafa, because after seeing his work and watching his SHOWstudio interview, I love how he never apologises for who he is and how his work might make other people feel. He doesn't seem caught up in or phased by fame from his work. He would be great at helping to build concepts, and for film, as I have a big interest in it developing my work in film. 3. Nadine Ijewere because she's a great photographer with a good sense of direction. I think she would understand my concepts and also push the imagery creatively.I think all three together would make a killer team; a good mixture for a fashion brand to have art, culture, and design.
Tia: There are a lot of men who design in womenswear, but fewer women who design menswear. Not to reify the gender binary, but does being a woman in menswear ever feel isolating or challenging?
Yes, it does! I always get compared to women designers but not male designers. I understand why, but I should not just been seen in one category. I feel like there is more pressure on women to not just to be been seen as a woman who's designing mens’ clothes, but just to be seen as a great designer.
Tia: You’ve been presenting in New York, Florence, and Copenhagen this year already. That’s wild. What is it like working and networking in unfamiliar territory?
I've been challenging myself to be confident when speaking about my work, but now I am kind of used it. I think the years of previously working in retail has taught me lot about approaching people. I have enjoyed all the experiences… Copenhagen was probably my favourite as I was more prepared after making minor mistakes previously, like not bring enough business cards.
Tia: I heard you talk in a podcast, comparing being a designer to having your own movement. What is the Bianca Saunders movement?
Being a designer is about creating a culture around your clothes, especially as a young designer. I have my own tribe of people that the collection speaks to. Mine is about London, about personal identity, black culture… I think that a lot of people can relate to one thing or another.
Follow @biancasaunders_ for more. Lookbook image by @_adamajalloh, styling by @pc_williams, grooming by @martilattanzi, hair by @__kaiko_.