Grace Wales Bonner’s approach to fashion can sometimes feel more like that of an academic rather than a designer.
Her collections for Wales Bonner, the brand she started in 2015, are informed by dazzlingly intensive research spanning critical theory, music, literature, history and mysticism. With a particular focus on Black identity and conversations about race, her sharply tailored, finely detailed clothes intertwine traditional African craft techniques with references to figures like the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, the writer James Baldwin and the artist Theaster Gates and settings like the ballrooms of early 20th-century Harlem and the dance halls of 1970s Jamaica.
Her clever embrace of so many perspectives and personalities, and her proudly Afro-Atlantic approach to fashion, has made Ms. Wales Bonner, 33, an increasingly influential figure in field. She has an ongoing partnership with Adidas and has designed uniforms for the Jamaican men and women’s soccer teams. This year, she began showing her collections in Paris, the creative and commercial epicenter of luxury fashion. When major jobs open up at top design houses, she is often rumored to be in the running.
But Ms. Wales Bonner is also a polymath with artistic ambitions outside fashion. This week, after more than four years of research, an exhibition she curated will open at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The show, “Spirit Movers,” includes more than 40 works from the museum’s collection and is part of MoMA’s Artist’s Choice series. Artists include Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Betye Saar, Moustapha Dimé and Terry Adkins.
Before the Nov. 18 opening, Ms. Wales Bonner sat down in her London studio to talk about the appeal of institutional curation and the importance of sound in her work in fashion and beyond.
You have said that clothing is your most direct form of communication.