One To Watch: Mowalola

At just 25 years old, Nigerian and British designer Mowalola Ogunlesi is primed to be a famed fashion name quite quickly. Already gaining traction and the attention of career-catapulter Kanye West, her otherworldly eye has been recently appointed as the new Yeezy Gap Collaboration Design Director. Mowalola grew up in England attending an all girls Catholic school. She was exposed to the world of fashion through her family - her grandmother developed a fashion label in the 1960’s in Nigeria, with her mother following that family business. Her father designed traditional Nigerian menswear, and though she was raised by fashion craftsmen, Mowalola emphasizes her desire for a deeper creative expression.
In entering the world of fashion, studying at Central Saint Martins and working for Grace Wales Bonner is certainly a fantastic place to start. Mowalola developed the art of expressing a story within a collection, and launched her first collection in 2017 titled ‘Psychedelic,’ a line she emphasized was “unapologetically black and pan-African.” Mowalola’s most recent collection at Fashion East Menswear SS20 (theme being Exposure) solidified her voice in the fashion industry. Models walked the collection in energized, technicolor leather, with suits featuring bullet-wound graphics and unnatural-toned cow prints. Spray painted, hazed graphics emphasize an element of psychedelica across a strong leather backdrop. The collection was said by Mowalola to be inspired by the exposure of “the horrific feeling of falling in love...it screams my lived experience as a Black person.”
More recently, Mowalola released an exhibition at London’s NOW Gallery. Through the month of December in 2019, the exhibit, titled Silent Madness, was “an immersive installation that marries Mowalola’s unique Nigerian punk-inspired aesthetic with her passion for musical expression.” The surrealist color explosion featured a room of draped fabrics in brutal prints. Mannequins with a punkish energy wear Mowalola’s designs, and visitors are handed an MP3 player with 6 songs in which they can choose from to experience the exhibition. In line with Mowalola’s challenging expressionism, the installation aimed to “disrupt and question preconceptions of normality whilst challenging traditional discourse surrounding African sexuality.”
Custom pieces of the up and coming designer recently began appearing on the likes of Drake, Naomi Campbell, and Kim Kardashian West, giving Mowalola much deserved media attention. As the designer continues to gain traction, Gap and Kanye West have tapped her to come onto their latest collaboration. Following the cancelled collaboration of Gap’s deal with Telfar, it will be interesting to see the view Mowalola and West bring to the retail giant.
By Adi Shoham