Since showing her menswear graduate collection at the Central St Martins Press Show in 2017, Nigerian-born London-based designer Mowalola Ogunlesi’s namesake label ordered the attention of the fashion world with profound sensuality and defiance. The aesthetic encapsulates that of a black African male’s sexuality, desire and attitude through an unfiltered lens that strips gender and racial stereotypes bare. Penetrating designs ignite an elated journeying of Africa, drawing inspiration from 1970’s highlife and psych-rock music to album cover artwork and low-budget action films viewed on gritty VHS cassettes. Born of fashion designer parents still living in Nigeria, Ogunlesi’s father—who makes traditional Nigerian menswear—has always been a fundamental inspiration. Pop culture icons Prince and Andre 3000 are additional points of reference to her gender-blurring garments. Supple leather trousers, jackets and coats—instant cult favorites—are statement pieces cut arrestingly close to the body. Hot red imagery invigorates achromatic silhouettes, contributing a forbidden-fruit-like desirability to semi-sheer tank tops and soft jersey t-shirts.
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