Sian Cuthbert Davis takes a look back at one of the surprise standout shows from PFW
Lock your windows and hold onto your purses, for SS23 Nigerian multidisciplinary artist Mowalola criminally captured our hearts with a defiant return to the catwalk at the recent Paris Fashion Week after a three-year hiatus. This time it was for a collection ominously dubbed BURGLARWEAR. The new collection dissected the prideful confidence of white-collar bankers, pastors and Nigeria’s infamous Yahoo boys. It explored notions of what it means to ‘steal,’ while at the same time examining pop culture motifs, religion and sex. As much as anything else, the new offering also explored what it means to be stolen.
Navigating her perspective of eroticism and the contrast of influences, bondage-esque outfits intentionally restricted arms, evoking associations of submissive fetishism and kidnapping. These subversive outfits were juxtaposed next to city boy tailoring refashioned with delectable hipbone cutouts. ‘Jewellery – heist balaclavas’ were improbably tethered to low-rise trousers with slashed swathes of suiting fabrics. All of which should tell you, Ogulensi’s SS23 clearly takes inspiration from the wonderful world of make believe. Everywhere there were comic book tones of cobalt blues, blood reds and acid yellows to remind you that the costumed supervillains of the story can be real fun too.
With the brand’s return to the shows also came a notable partnership with footwear giants New Balance, resulting in a collaboration over brand new shoe – the 90/60. Inspired by hazy aughts dance-floors and creative culture, the many dualities seen throughout show were again invoked here, and surely reflected the many dualities women like Mowalola have to live (and, sometimes, relish) every day of their lives.
Mowalola didn’t just stop at the clothes to incorporate these themes. Models were sent down the runway flaunting nipples, navels and baby bumps to showcase the conflicting ideologies of Nigerian youth and the religious conservatism of the elder generations. There was no shying away from the political and societal tensions and injustices of the black experience. Ogulensi’s body of work often contains nods to these serious conversations, with contemplations on the Black Lives Matter movement informing previous collections for example. In fact, along with her team, the designer and her eponymous brand has fast become a real voice to be regarded and respected in a space that still sorely lacks black female representation behind the catwalks and away from the popping flash bulbs.
For more information on Mowalola SS23, click here