When Mowalola Ogunlesi appeared for her arc after a three-year track hiatus, the room roared. Ogunlesi has a strong community of fashion lovers who love her – even outside of her physical performance space, her legions of online fans have offered an outpouring of support for their daughter Mowa’s comeback. This passion is reflected in Ogunlesi’s clothes and in her first solo exhibition after participating in Fashion East for several seasons.
“Before, I used to stop myself from expressing myself in certain ways because I thought I shouldn’t do that,” she told Vogue Business ahead of her Paris debut. But the designer has learned that “whatever feeds me, I have to do it”. What fueled Ogunlesi this season was the flight and evolution of her aesthetic beyond the trench coats, t-shirts and accessories she is known for. She titled her collection “Burglarwear,” inspired by all types of criminals, from kidnappers to stockbrokers to the priesthood. There were literal renderings of these themes – the show opened with a yellow leather crossover harness, closed with a beautiful, cross-adorned sheer veil worn over a naked body, and Wall Street suits were cut to Mowalola proportions. between the two – but his most interesting propositions were his distortions of the human body.
Sex appeal has been a staple of the Mowalola look since the inception of her brand – backstage before the show, she expressed frustration about gendered views of sex appeal, “that’s why I have women showing nipples and men showing nipples”, a pregnant model in a beaded dress and a male model in some of the lowest pants seen this season. But rather than just showing off the body, she reshaped it. Inspired by how kidnappers would zip up their wrists — “the same position if you’re wearing handcuffs,” she said — she created garments that held her arms crossed in front. Best was a white dress that pointed the model’s elbows skyward. “I like the idea of weaponizing clothes, weaponizing shoes, weaponizing shoulders, weaponizing elbows,” she said with a smile, “Even my bag…sometimes I have to use my bag as a weapon.” Living as freely and expressing yourself as purely as Ogunlesi, unfortunately, sometimes requires fighting for space in fashion. She is definitely up to the task.