Focus On: Mowalola

In the light of the extremely sad and disturbing events that have happened in the past few days – and not only – I would like to state that my site, my work and my outlook always stand with the black community. Racism is alive in America, and in the world, and we must be vocal about it (the way you personally choose to). I believe that educating yourself, having conversations (private and public) and spreading actual awareness is much more meaningful than just reposting a slogan on your social media feed (even though doing this little is better than nothing). I also think that in the creative industries – the one I can speak for – reflecting personal beliefs should be more than welcomed. Other than this, donate (click here and here), share links (here, here and here), support! You can even buy the dress Rihanna wore by Asai, and the entire 300 pounds it costs will be donated to three charities – just DM the designer with your order or send him an e-mail. In the domain I’m most active in – fashion – I feel like the situation should be highlighted as well, and more designers and brands should join that dialogue. On my side, I want to introduce you to the most exciting, emerging, independent black designers out there, who are often overlooked during fashion weeks or simply underrated. Their stories and visions shape and inspire today’s industry, we should all acknowledge that!

Starting with Mowalola. The Lagos-born designer Mowalola Ogunlesi arrived to London when she was a kid. At first she planned medicine as her life path, but in the end she went to Central Saint Martins. Three years ago, she presented her diploma collection dedicated to contemporary Africa. She made waves – fashion insiders and international magazines were obsessed. Mawolola’s vision was completely one-of-a-kind: through sexy, at points kinky garments she managed to convey the power of erotic tension in the times of social uncertainty. “In my country, I grew up with sexuality being very judged. So I wanted to transform people’s ideas of what sexy is. That it’s okay to show skin”, she told Vogue Runway. To embrace her origins, the designer chose psychodelic rock from Nigeria as her main reference, and her music inspirations lead to creating the new romantic menswear. Mowalola models wore sultry leather jackets, low-waisted super-slim pants and skin-baring crop tops with assymetrical cuts. All that kept in bold colours, reminding her of the Nigerian landscapes and streets. For her spring-summer 2020 collection, presented with Fashion East, Mowalola expanded her unique take on men’s fashion. Her signatures were styled with belts buckled with sacred and profane symbols: a cross, a religious icon, the Stars and Stripes, the words “sexy” and “mother fucker”. “I base it on what I’m going through – I’ve just fallen in love for the first time; I feel as if no one talks about the horrific side, the dangers of love, of losing control of your emotions and feeling like you’re crazy. It’s like how I see a horror movie!” she related. “So this is as if I’m in a black Woodstock Festival, and someone has been murdered.” See selected looks from her collections below, I can’t wait to see what she’s up to in the upcoming seasons. Make sure to follow her on Instagram and take a look at some of the pieces available from her on ssese.com!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki

The Look – Marc Jacobs AW20

Marc Jacobs‘ phenomenal autumn-winter 2020 collection is probably one of my favourite moments of the entire season. The runway featured a dance performance choreographed by Karole Armitage, New York’s „punk ballerina”, with the catwalk staged like a bistro. At some point it was hard to tell who’s the model and who’s the dancer (everybody was dressed in Jacobs), and that was the intention: beauty in chaos, told through powerful movement. Infinitely inspired by his heroes of the past and present, it is style, in which different people dress at the various stages, ages and times in their lives, that provokes Marc’s love for fashion and possibilities of what it can be. The designer especially had the fading image of disappearing New York in his mind – forever mythical and chic, with its „beauty, promise, sparkle and grit”. The simple, yet unbelievably elegant look Sara Grace Wallerstedt wore – black bra worn underneath a cable-knit cardigan, black pencil skirt, kitten heels with socks and a head-band – is the style refinement level that equals to Holly Golightly’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s wardrobe. When I rewatched this film a few days ago, I just couldn’t not think about Jacobs’ recent line-up.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki featuring Steven Meisel‘s photo for Vogue Italia‘s April 1999 issue.

Stripped-Back. Christopher Kane Pre-Fall 2020

For pre-fall 2020 – which got launched on-line in the middle of corona – Christopher Kane was thinking about making “a stripped-back collection,” a line-up addressing his label’s most distinct codes: “sharp tailoring, flounces, bell skirts, and chain mail”, as he told Vogue Runway. Although the process of designing the collection took place well before the pandemic broke in Europe, it has a concept that might really work well business-wise for other brands in the future. A well-edited pack of looks that clearly states what the brand is all about (in case of Kane: an intelligent, at times quirky, take on sexuality), a serve of few bold silhouettes that will actually sell (love the flared midi-skirts in electric red), something fun (the Naturotica t-shirts!) and in general, items that feel relevant and… desirable.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Dreaming of a Party. Miu Miu Pre-Fall 2020

While pre-collections might soon become outdated thanks to Gucci’s Alessandro Michele smart move, a few look-book line-ups (photographed in pre-corona times) got recently dropped as the new season is slowly popping in stores (as if anybody actually bought anything from the spring-summer offerings…). Miu Miu‘s pre-fall 2020 foreshadows the main collection’s thread, which was about glamour and the joy of dressing up, from a young woman’s point of view. The visuals by Douglas Irvine suggests the mix of feelings a person might have before any party or wedding reception. Excitement. Anxiety. “Get the party started“. “Not going“. “Ok, fine, I’m coming!” It’s a heavy throwback to late 1960s and early 1970s, and quite possibly Miuccia Prada reflected on her own style navigation from that time. Some of the dresses – especially the prairie baby doll fits and the maxi ones with vintage-y ruffles – made you think of Batsheva and The Vampire’s Wife signature specialties. Miu Miu has them in arty patchwork pattern prints, and it seems that the label didn’t think of using pre-existing fabric leftovers for the collection. And that’s a pity, as it would really make sense in the current sustainability conversation the industry is having. The rest of the collection was quintessentially Miu Miu: so-odd-it’s-good colour clashes, knitted tights, cute embroideries and embellishments, fun faux-fur stoles. Of course, back in 2019 when that collection was being finalised, nobody had a clue that 2020 would be that crap. Yet still, I’ve got to ask this: where will she wear those dresses? Thanks god we’ve got Zoom parties…

Collage by Edward Kanarecki, look-books photos by Douglas Irvine for Miu Miu.

Taking Time. Alaïa AW20

In times like this, it’s strange to write about fashion. But at the same time, oh how I want fashion… Don’t get me wrong: less collections a year is an initiative that needs praise and support. But when I hear such radical things as “no more fashion weeks” or “no more fashion shows”… then what’s the actual sense of it all, other than just clothes? Also, I fear that not only small and emerging labels might struggle and drown in financial problems, but as well independent, legendary houses that don’t have the deserved spotlight. One of them is Alaïa. After producing 10 collections without the house’s founder, Azzedine Alaïa‘s studio has pretty much found its stride, taking liberties while never straying too far from home base. It also found ample inspiration in two satellite events: the exhibition at the Galerie Azzedine Alaïa entitled Alaia and Balenciaga, Sculptors of Shape, and the book Taking Time, a selection of conversations compiled over the years around Alaïa’s imposing, eclectically populated dinner table. Among those featured are Jonathan Ive and Marc Newson, who speak of time as “the first ergonomic product.” For the autumn-winter 2020 line-up, the studio picks up on the late designer’s fascination with ergonomy, in particular through jersey knit. Starting with archival samples and a lifetime’s worth of research, it delved into origami-inspired pleating and came up with a new, openwork iteration that, while visibly true to house codes also pushed the story forward. For the first time, a cape coat ordinarily cut from cloth resurfaced in a dense knit, textured in ovoid reliefs. Knits also proved a foil for a leather corset belt with fringes that fell to mid-thigh. Impractical though it may be, in a season heavy with fringe, that would-be skirt was one of the most compelling pieces around. In that spirit, there were also a few fringed jackets extrapolated from one Mr. Alaïa had left unfinished on a mannequin in his studio. With Alaïa’s original, iconic zip dress headed to the Met exhibition, About Time (which has been indefinitely postponed due to coronavirus), the studio offered up a new, simpler take on that idea in a little black dress. His signature leopard print also appeared in various iterations, in a gathered and belted coat or a knit bodice on an evening gown. Other highlights included velvet dresses in black, deep burgundy (sublime!) or forest green, and an eye-catching jacket and skirt ensemble in laser-cut, embroidered leather that amped up the contrast of matte and shine. That’s why we will always need brands like Alaïa: it’s not just the history and the person, but a place, where you will find a perfectly timeless dress.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.