Mowalola Ogunlesi is no stranger to pushing boundaries. The Nigerian-born designer, based in London, recently showcased her Spring 2024 collection off-schedule, way out by London City Airport. The event, which seemed like a potential clash on paper, turned out to be a magnetic affair that drew a crowd of about 1,000 people, despite industry absences and a concurrent show by the widely adored Chopova Lowena. Ogunlesi’s collection, inspired by her first-ever viewing of David Cronenberg’s film “Crash,” was a bold and daring exploration of pain, danger, and the beauty that lies therein.
The MOWALOLA Spring 2024 collection delves into the themes of pain, danger, and beauty by creating a universe that resides on the street and is filtered through a prism of ecstatic jeopardy. Ogunlesi found herself inspired by the fetishization of pain through crashing depicted in Cronenberg’s film and used that as a jumping-off point to imagine a world where dressing dangerously is the norm. She expressed the pain and insecurity she experienced while steering her fledgling label and channeling those emotions into her art. This was evident in the collection’s details, such as the livid bruises and extreme scars expertly applied in makeup on the models, and the risqué design elements, such as masturbating anime girl prints and faux Highway Patrol patches on off-the-shoulder bombers.
Ogunlesi also played with extreme contrasts in volume, making generic sportswear appear particular, and used unconventional materials like patent leather oxfords for menswear looks. Notably, the designer was supported by Kanye West and Bianca Censori, both of whom were in the audience and have been instrumental in her development as a designer. Ogunlesi’s gratitude towards West and Censori was evident, describing West’s process as revealing and Censori’s energy as incredibly smart and special.
The collection included a series of twinning looks, a Lagerfeld salute, an Umbro bootleg, and a flags-of-the-world theme. One poignant piece was an EU skirt paired with a Union Jack cap, highlighting the extreme contrasts that define the collection. Despite the daring and edgy nature of the clothes, there was an underlying message of growth and empowerment. Ogunlesi’s approach to design reflects her life philosophy of embracing fear, running towards danger, and finding the beauty in pain rather than playing the victim.
© Photos: MOWALOLA
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