Photo by Ruth Ossai

Fashion

Nigerian psychedelic rock is celebrated in Mowalola Ogunlesi’s fashion collection

August 11, 2017
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By Christa Dee / Bubblegum Club, AFROPUNK contributor

Tight-fitting leather pants and jackets, accessorized with headlights, futuristic visors and car logos. This is the work of young designer Mowalola Ogunlesi who has grabbed the attention of fashion critics globally with the collection she put together for her grad show at Central Saint Martins.

Being surrounded by the fashion world from a young age, with both of her parents being designers in Nigeria, Mowalola has always found the transformations that fabrics can go through enchanting. “I would go watch [my parents] work, and even try to create things myself as a child,” Mowalola expressed while reflecting back on how she knew fashion was what she wanted to invest in creatively.

“I am playing on the relationship between African standards of male sexuality, bold energy and explosive prints,” Mowalola expressed when asked about her designs. Embracing Pan-Africanism, and its emphasis on cultural awareness and pride, her designs covert fabrics into a celebration of Nigerian heritage, a stylistic approach which is central to how she is building the identity for her label, Mowalola.

Nigerian psychedelic rock from the ’70s and ’80s, the main source of inspiration for her grad show collection, quite fittingly, was also influenced by the Nigerian social landscape. This comes across in the songs by some of Mowalola’s heroes, Fela Kuti, Steve Monite, The Funkeez and Ofege. Explaining that she is “carving out [her] own futuristic signature” while paying homage to these artists and rock movement they pioneered, the collection is a direct translation of the wild guitar riffs and sweaty club scenes that she admires. “The collection is all about the celebration of the black African male – his culture, his sexuality and his desires,” Mowalola explains.

In continuing with the powerful sonic energies that inspired the collection, the images for the lookbook created in collaboration with stylist Ib Kamara and photographer Ruth Ossai comes across as if vicariously taken in the ’80s, with the spirit of Fela Kuti from the past and future providing artistic direction.

Mowalola will be taking her talents from the runway to a music video that she will be working on in Nigeria in the Summer.

To keep up with her work check her out on Instagram.

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