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Bianca Saunders Spring/Summer 2023
Bianca Saunders Spring/Summer 2023Photography by Paul Phung

Bianca Saunders on the Jamaican Food That Inspired Her Latest Show

Ahead of her Spring/Summer 2023 menswear show in Paris, Bianca Saunders discusses the inspiration behind the collection – Jamaican hard food – and why women love to wear her clothes

Lead ImageBianca Saunders Spring/Summer 2023Photography by Paul Phung

As menswear has become one of the most coveted areas in fashion – due to its fluidity, wearability, and subversiveness – Bianca Saunders has become a designer to watch, with her menswear that’s flexible in nature and feminine in essence. Following her acclaimed Autumn/Winter 2022 presentation and ANDAM prize win last year, Saunders staged her Spring/Summer 2023 show yesterday in a sterile warehouse in Paris, under effervescent light. 

Taste was the motivating factor behind the new collection; Hard Food – the title of the show – sources from Jamaican hard food like boiled dumplings, bananas, and yams. Soft-toned pigments like tans, creams, and yellows replicated the hue of yams and bananas, juxtaposed with bold and electric greens, oranges, and reds that imitated plantains, pumpkins, and carrots – elements often found in boiled, hard-food dishes. 

“I feel like every season, I come up with the idea of warming up to people and feeling more comfortable to be that outgoing person. This collection is definitely more outgoing, but of course, I’m still reserving some things so I have like a little bit of longevity for the next coming years and seasons,” she explains the evening before the show.  

Memorable tailoring attributes from previous seasons were present in this show; grandiose folded collars appeared atop French-style jackets, and asymmetrical necklines reappeared on feminine tops. With this season’s focus on structured silhouettes, texture, and colour, the eye-catcher of the season came with the curved lines of structured denim jackets and silky, pyjama-like sets. Always one to oscillate between the sartorial languages of menswear and womenswear, Saunders showed off a harder, more masculine side in the front of her garments while tailoring the back of pieces to have a softer, more feminine edge.

Here, in her own words, Saunders tells the story of her Spring/Summer 2023 collection. 

“Every season, you see things that I could potentially grow more into. There’s so many ideas that I have and developments I want to really push forward. And this season, I had a lot more time to develop, so I did a lot more things to perfect those particular ideas. The tailoring is a lot more stronger, the fabrication is a lot more stronger. I feel like it’s a really nice continuous story on how the body contouring works with the print and the construction of the back can be interesting. It’s definitely a next level to what last season was. 

This collection is inspired by Jamaican hard food. So the idea of making starchy, natural, hard textures into stuff – and that’s kind of what happens with the cooking process of making hard food. I used that concept to inspire this season’s collection. So, I still have the general thread of how the masculine hard side or the soft feminine side mixes in. At the front of it, the texture could be extremely hard and in the back, we look more fluid and a lot more relaxed.

“It really is examining the body and examining the idea of movement and material, and how that mixes in. The colour palette for this season has its muted moments, but of course, it has the strong, raw colours inspired by Jamaican hard food, like the yam, the green banana, and with the darker palette; it’s how plantain ripens.

“With this collection, I didn’t really start with music. Last season, I had the My Jamaican Guy song in the mix, and I was thinking about what Grace Jones would be listening to when she’s cooking in her kitchen. She wasn’t necessarily a dancehall person, she would listen to The Clash and things like that. So those sounds from the 80s, late 70s is what really carries. I worked with my usual sound guy, Benny Mails – we work together so well. I’m really excited to see it because it kind of goes through the clashing and the idea of cooking and what the sort of sound will be in the background. The soundscapes are [like] when you dance and when you are cooking food, but also just the rhythm of what the natural sounds of moving things around in the kitchen would be. 

“I like the idea that women will see it [men’s clothes] on the other side of the room and they’ll go over to that section [in the department store]” – Bianca Saunders

“Today, I don’t want to sound too sure of myself, but I’m actually really impressed with how everything has come together so nicely. Being in Paris has really enabled me to just be in my own little bubble, I’ve been really enjoying this stage. It felt like starting again, essentially, last time because of the pandemic – no one was able to come to the show. So this season more people were able to come; it’s like reintroducing what I want people to know about the brand and what I want them to take away. When they’re going to shop for the brand, they’ll know exactly what they want to pick because it’s easy to imagine it in a wardrobe.

“I try to make [the clothes] quite timeless, surrounding the concept and the idea of what hard food is and picking up on the stylistic points. Every season, it comes with the idea of warming up to people and feeling more comfortable to be that outgoing person. This collection is definitely more outgoing, but of course, I’m still reserving some things, so I have a little bit of longevity for the next coming years and seasons. So you will never know what to expect. 

“I’m definitely sticking to what I said I wanted to do from the beginning. It’s very easy to sway one way and see what other people might be doing, so [I’m] just following my gut and not being swayed by opinions, and that’s what helped people come towards me instead of me going towards them. I like the idea that women will see it [men's clothes] on the other side of the room and they'll go over to that section. I think that's how you bridge the gap, by making women actively go to that section of the department store. It’s looking at the clothes in a different way. That’s something I’m probably going to continue to do, so it will be menswear for a while. I’m only one person, I still design my collections and it’s quite important for me to create the right standpoint of what the brand says before branching out. It’s [about] creating a good mark first and then branching out, and not doing things too quickly. I think women do enjoy the idea of putting something on that is menswear, because when they put it on it doesn’t necessarily look the same as it looks on someone else – it looks like something completely different. For example, when Kylie Jenner wore the jeans, I was like, whoa, that was something that looked completely different on the model, but it still is the same product.”