As Kanye West’s “Yeezy” and Gap Inc ink a 10-year deal, Nigerian-born designer Mowalola Ogunlesi, has been tapped as the design director. Gap is the largest specialty retail company in the Us, was once one of America’s most beloved apparel retailers, known for its laid-back basics and classic denim.
A dream come true for the billionaire mogul, West hopes to have the same impact in the music world on clothing. The partnership will help the two brands find “new audiences”. In a press release statement, the companies said under West’s creative guidance, with the new line which will be available for customers next year to include “modern, elevated basics” for men, women and kids at “accessible” prices.
Who is Mowalola Ogunlesi?
Mowalola Ogunlesi is a Nigerian-British designer who has been tapped as the design director of Kanye West’s new Yeezy and gap collaborative venture. So, who is Mowalola Ogunlesi?
She is Nigerian
Mowalola was born in Lagos to Nigerian parents. Her Nigerian roots are heavily reflected in her work. Mowalola’s grandmother, Scottish moved to Nigeria after marrying Ogunlesi’s grandfather in the 1960’s.
She was born into fashion
Her parents are fashion designers, as were her grandparents. They launched a fashion label soon after getting married that used indigenous textiles.
“My grandmother started a womenswear brand in the 80’s in Nigeria, which my mum worked in. Both of them were designers. My dad does menswear – traditional Nigerian menswear. Clothes are a really big thing in our household….” In an interview with SSENSE.
Her debut collection “Psychedelic” launched her into spotlight
Mowalola’s BA collection for Central saint Martins graduation, entitled “Psychedelic” snagged the attention of many including Vogue. The collection was an ode to Lagosian petrol heads and Nigeria 70s and 80s rock music. Psychedelic, according to her is a celebration of the African male, his culture, sexuality and desires – translated into erotic Lagosian petrol heads further explained as male racers in Lagos who are enthusiastic about cars and pimping out their rides. Clearly visually represented as the models decorated with Mercedes Benz logos and silver chairs stormed the runway carrying giant headlights which paid homage to the wild transportation of Okada’s (bikers) and Danfo’s (buses) in Lagos.
She dropped out of Central Saint Martins
Mowalola dropped out of Central Saint Martins one year into her MA in 2018. Reasons being that CSM was a bit too dated for her and had a lack of variety especially in people of color as tutors. Mowalola also explained she felt the need to be wit people who really understood her and more on her wavelength – hence, her decision to drop out and apply to Fashion East which helped her come in terms of everything.
In her words “…. Very hands on. I’m with these people that I don’t even pay and they’re doing so much for me. Without Fashion East, there probably wouldn’t be new designers”.
She has a large list of International Clientele
Mowalola counts Skepta and Kanye as fans. Earlier this week, Kanye, Kim and North wore Mowalola’s custom designs in the family’s father day photo taken in the family’s $14 million dollar Wyoming ranch.
Her designs have been worn by the likes of Drake, Kelela, Steve Stacy, Solange and has been featured in several magazines such as Love and Afropunk. She collaborated with Skepta on his “Pure Water” music video.
Her Nigerian roots influence her work
The young designer moved to England at the age of 12 but still identifies as Nigerian. “I’m Nigerian, so whatever I create is automatically going to be Nigerian work. I don’t feel like I have to brand myself as the African designer”. She channels her Nigerian roots into her work. “Whenever I’m there (in Lagos), I always make sure I’m looking outside and watching the history” to W Magazine. She also admitted to having Nigerian music played and eating Nigerian food during breaks. “We had Nigerian music playing and my parent brought some jollof rice to keep us going.”
She’s the brain behind Naomi Campbell’s Bullet Hole dress
2019 London fashion week saw Naomi Campbell wearing a halterneck gown that featured a hole meant to look like a gunshot wound with a touch of red that looked like blood according to Dazed. The legendary model, unafraid to speak her mind used the dress to convey an important message about violence.
Mowalola explained the design, writing on Instagram “I make clothes to challenge people’s minds. This gown is from my collection ‘Coming For Blood’ – a 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. It shows no matter how well dressed you are or well behaved, we are time after time, seen as a walking target. I’m in a privileged position to be able to speak on issues that others would be silenced on. Inequality is still rife and newspapers clawing at my work is testament to that.”
Naomi described the gown as an artistic statement and not in any way glorifying gun violence as the dress sent the media into a frenzy at that time.
She was involved on Nike’s Naija Collective
Mowalola was involved with the launch of Nike’s eye-catching line for 2018 World Cup held in Russia. She worked as a stylist.
She’s dressed up Barbie
Along with five other young designers, Mowalola was commissioned by Vogue to dress Barbie in honors of the iconic doll in August 2019.