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B Side, Culture

Mowalola: A Bohemian That Does Whatever She Wants

Mowalola is all about expressionism and youth culture in all facets. She is dynamic in essence, flowing with whatever muse she comes across.

  • Favour Overo
  • 6th June 2024
Mowalola

Mowalola is a cool kid. And one thing cool kids love to do is to break the rules. If you have been fortunate to come across a work of hers, you certainly might have, in one way or another, grasped the sermon that she is effortlessly trying to preach. “Play the game, don’t be an NPC,” said the 29-year-old creative during an interview with PAPER Mag in 2022.

 

She had then just released a mind-bending and surreal animated video for her track, “BUNDLES,” that saw a feature list stacked with female stars from all over the globe, and production from famous alté artist, Odunsi (The Engine).   

 


It was less than a year before the release of “BUNDLES” that Mowalola’s fashion career gained mainstream attention. She was announced as the design director of Yeezy Gap, a proposed 10-year collaboration between Ye (FKA Kanye West) and American clothing line, Gap. A deal that only lasted 2 years, due to business disagreements between both parties. After leaving her role at Yeezy Gap, Mowalola amicably revealed that as much as she loved working with Ye, she
“…preferred being able to create without any kinds of restrictions.” That’s all it has ever been about for Mowalola; deliberately doing or wanting to do whatever the f*ck she feels like. 

 

Mowalola is a London-based Nigerian fashion designer and singer. Born and raised in Lagos, she had always been around fashionwear creativity since birth. Her Scottish grandmother was a designer, and so were both her parents. Her mother, Adenike Ogunlesi founded Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, a pioneering kid’s clothing brand in Nigeria, while her father specialized in traditional Nigerian menswear. She moved to England at the age of 12. In 2017, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Textiles at Central Saint Martins. She began her Master’s program that same year, but dropped out in 2018, for the sake of owning her creative freedom. 

 

From launching her eponymous-branded clothing line that same year, to styling A-list personalities like Steve Lacy, Drake, and Solange Knowles in the last 6 years, it is fair to say Mowalola’s search for creative freedom has been a copious success. Traditionally, the third-generation designer’s style is usually categorized as strictly sensual and extreme. After all, her runway debut collection, Psychedelic, at the 2017 Central Saint Martins graduate press show was largely a sexual appreciation of the 70’s and 80’s rock music era in Nigeria.

 

 

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Gaining inspiration from the psychedelic rock group that existed then, the collection featured low-slung, extra-fitted trousers, with cropped jackets that revealed models’ greased mid-section, and a sheer amount of the nipples. Mowalola further explained while speaking to
Dazed that the collection was a “…celebration of the black African male: his culture, sexuality, and desires.”

 

Since coming to the scene with the Psychedelic concept, Mowalola’s art has been criticized for indecency and extra nudity by most of the public.

 

 

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While a number of her designs expose most of the wearer’s skin, Mowa has proven on many occasions that she is more than just the “naked wear designer” she is commonly painted to be. In 2018, she worked as the designer for the Nigerian national team’s uniforms, a sportswear style side way different from what she is accustomed to, and a year later, she designed costumes used in Skepta’s “Pure Water” music video.

 

 

During this, she tapped deep into her alté fashion style, as most of the video vixens wore beaded tops and bottoms. On the 2022 Paris Fashion Week Calendar, she released a collection titled Burglarwear, inspired by “all kinds of thieves, from people who work on Wall Street to online scammers.”

 

 

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She also remains part of the very unpopulated club of stylists ever to design an outfit for both Bratz and a Barbie. 

 

 

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Mowalola is all about expressionism and youth culture in all facets. She is dynamic in essence, flowing with whatever muse she comes across. Concerning her style being continually classified with people’s source of distaste, she said to Bounce, “I speak to the world through my work, I just make the shit you want to see.” So, for those that still tag her as only sexual, wait until her next collection of fairly revealing clothes, since that is “the shit you want to see.

 

As much as nonconformity is Mowalola’s forte, it has had her at the end of the controversial side of the public on several occasions. In some instances, she had been outright wrong, like her Spring 2024 ready-to-wear collection, Crash, which raised allegations of islamophobia. That particular collection featured various country flags designed for various low-waist mini-skirts, including the Royal Standard of Saudi Arabia, a nation with an unpleasant history with mini-skirts. But the fingers pointed to the direction of the Shahada in Arabic which translates to, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s messenger.” Mowalola apologized publicly on Instagram and removed the design from the collection. 

 

In other instances, however, Mowalola is simply misunderstood and hastily judged for her works. At the 2019 London Fashion Week, Mowa faced her first public scrutiny as a designer. She had designed a simple plain white halter neck dress for famous high fashion model, Naomi Campbell, with a scarlet-red bullet blood stain at the mid-abdomen area. Fans immediately associated the look as a metaphor for the rampancy of gun violence in the UK at that time. Mowalola was quick to refute the misinterpretation, indicating that the Coming for Blood collection, as she titled it, was a representation of the ills of falling in love. She wrote on Instagram: “Coming for Blood – delving into the horrific feeling of falling in love. This dress is extremely emotional to me – it screams my lived experience as a black person.”

 

 

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Like Mowalola, many artisans and artists who choose not to reduce their creativities and creations to the boxes made by the masses’ expectations, tend to initiate misplaced interpretations of such personalities. Humans commonly fear what they do not understand, and with time that fear transits to dislike or hatred. Take Olaolu Slawn for example. The Nigerian artist’s works are constantly invalidated and presumed to be offensive because of his unusual signature cartoon-like paintings —or Seyi Vibez, whose hedonistic and unpredictable sonic style is largely seen as petty lyrical incoherence. Art is not just criticism of expressions, but grasping an understanding of the creator’s intentions behind the masterpiece.

 

With her personal social media handles being the same as her business page, Mowalola remains keen on the notion that for her, there isn’t a distinction between the design and the designer. “My friends describe me as being 10 bitches all in 1,” she said, while speaking to Bounce about the difference between herself and her career personalities. Mowalola is not an ordinary individual, and that labyrinthine genuity in her actions, thoughts, portrayals, designs, and mistakes make her audaciously stand out in what she does.

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