Mowalola is the eponymous London-based fashion brand by Mowalola Ogunlesi, who showed her second collection at London Fashion Week for SS20 earlier this year, as part of non-profit fashion collection and talent incubator Fashion East.
The Mowalola aesthetic is high-energy and provocative, featuring leather crop tops, halter-neck suits, and lascivious prints – there’s even a suit jacket with a bullet wound.
Ogunlesi – whose work has developed an ardent following with fans such as Skepta, Steve Lacy, Kanye West, and Solange – uses fashion to dismantle thought patterns, particularly regarding society and sexuality. “Every time I get a new collection, I just ask myself: What is the world like? What do I want to change in the world?” she explains. “I feel the most free people can be is when they truly know themselves wholly, sexually. There [are] so many things trying to block that in the world, and I want people to be more in tune with themselves. If they can do that sexually, then they can adopt that to every aspect of their lives.”
“So, with my clothes, I want to show men in a different way to the way they are perceived, especially black men” she continues. “I’ve grown up being taught to think a certain type of way about how black men should be, or how we should perceive them as quite hard and aggressive. To me, a strong man is like Prince or like André 3000. They can be graceful, they can be soft, they can be family men. Yet they can still be masculine, all in one. I don’t think people need to fit into other people’s stereotypes. I think challenging stereotypes is what makes you find out who you really are.”
Ogunlesi notes that Mowalola is not a a brand per se, but is just her, and therefore incredibly personal: “I don’t see ‘fashion,’ which is just making things to sell – I’m actually translating how I feel into to my clothes. I don’t want to see so much shit in the world. I want to see shit that has a purpose, to make people feel some way, so that’s what I do with my work. So you would never see any work for me that I haven’t applied myself into. Otherwise, I’m not going to do it.”
Now, Ogunlesi is exploring Mowalola in a different dimension with a new installation at NOW Gallery called “Silent Madness,” which combines music, film, and pieces from her collection for a trippy walk through Mowalola’s surreal punk-inspired aesthetic.
Ogunlesi locks in on how she would like those walking through “Silent Madness” to feel: “Well, we’re just hoping people will stop and just be in themselves and in their minds for a couple of minutes. So, now you’re in your own world, but also in my world. You still have control, but I guess I’m kind of dictating where your mind is going to end up. I kind of wanted to give people the freedom to create their own reality in the space.”
You can see “Silent Madness” at NOW Gallery in London from now until 19 January, 2020.
The Gateway Pavilions,
London SE10 0SQ,