The London Fashion Week format may of had to change because of current circumstances, but the quality of creative talent that is always on offer hasn't subsided. While a few designer's have opted to show a new collection, many have used this opportunity to express themselves through a new realm of art. 

Bianca Saunders – founder of her menswear eponymous label that has previously showed under The BFC’s NEWGEN program – opted for the latter. Instead of a traditional runway show or presentation, Saunders has released We Are One of the Same, a zine made in collaboration with Joshua Woods, along with stylist Matt Holmes, and writer/model, Jessica Cole. During LFW, Saunders will be hosting a panel with SHOWstudio, on the importance of creative collaboration. Ahead of the weekend of artistic expression, Saunders spoke to us about her latest endeavours.

Portrait by Ryan O'Toole

How did the collaboration between you, Joshua Woods, Matt Holmes and Jess Cole come into fruition?
I met Joshua through being introduced to him by Becky from Twin Magazine. We were going to work on a project together but couldn’t quite align diaries. In April 2019, I went on a trip to New York, so it seemed the perfect opportunity for us to meet and work on something special.  Joshua's work has a documentary style and I really like how his images really connect with people on the other side of the lens. Gender and identity is a theme that runs through all of my collections, so we decided to create some imagery that explored that further. We looked at the idea of seeing and finding similarities in people, naturally the idea came up of shooting sets of twins. We worked with Arielle Berman on the casting, who found us Mecca and Faheem. Through the year of 2018-2019 I met a few US-based creatives in London on shoots or through friends at events.  After shooting with Matt Holmes on other projects I really liked his work and I thought that he would be a good fit for the zine. I met Jess Cole through Joshua, I think they became friends when Jess was modelling in New York. Josh spoke often about Jess being a great writer and shared her articles with me and I was hooked. We had always wanted to work on something more conceptual and this idea seemed perfect for us.

Why did you want to make a zine? In the past you've curated exhibitions and co-directed films, so why do you think that this format was the best way of portraying your views in 2020?
It’s a medium that I’ve always had an interest in since college, I released a zine back in 2017 called ‘Personal Politics’. It’s a unique way to express myself in the form of something physical that you can touch and treasure, something that will exist beyond this one moment. The possibilities of digital are endless but it can be transient, a zine is something you can own forever.

Image from We Are One of the Same

Your fashion brand has been celebrated for pushing pre-conceptions of gender through styles that embrace your Black-Carribean heritage. How important do you think it is to push the message that your zine title, We Are One of The Same reflects?
We are more similar than we realise and I think, now more than ever, is a time to realise that there is far more that binds us than that which divides us. There was a beautiful feeling of togetherness at the beginning of lockdown, one day we can get back to that when we realise this and if we can help drive this change through art then I’m all for it.

Why have you decided not to present your next collection and host a panel instead?
The themes in my collections and zine seem more poignant than ever right now, so London Fashion Week’s new digital format gave me the perfect platform to have this conversation live. When Jess, Joshua and I were first exploring ideas for the zine I found it a very inspiring time. I hope that I can bring that in to the open and inspire others. It's also been a time to really think and be creative, and during lockdown I’ve had the headspace to focus on other things that are not clothing, but tell the story of the brand.

Bianca Saunders SS20 Campaign

In summary (as we can't wait to hear more from the panel discussion!) Why do you think creative collaboration is necessary to progress the fashion industry?
It’s not a requirement for everyone, but collaboration has always been central to my work – fashion is a tough industry and we have to support each other. But not only that, I have always felt inspired by others. Working as a team towards a common goal and bouncing ideas off of each other helps drive your creativity; we can lean on each other’s strengths to create something even more special.

The Black Lives Matter movement has effectively shown a need for systemic change within society, which has clearly highlighted the flaws within the fashion industry. Do you think fashion could be a pioneer for that change?
Yes, it's been a really slow progression but speaking to my peers and noticing we are not okay with things going back to normal, it was needed for all industries to do better.  It has been a very uncomfortable time but I hope the activism of others does not stop, we can only change things if all races are working together. One thing I have realised recently is how closely my following watch me and absorb everything I do and say. It’s an amazing platform to have. As designers we have this platform to reach a very engaged audience of young fans coming through, we have the power to influence for the better.

Watch the Bianca Saunders and SHOWstudio panel on collaboration on June 13th  from 11:30am from here.

We Are One of the Same is available to buy here

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