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

Fantasy. Valentino Couture AW19

Summing up: it’s a fantasy.

With a 5-star line-up of models including the great Lauren Hutton, each singular silhouette that came down the Valentino runway added more and more meaning to a show that celebrated the opulence of diversity through a “gathering of individuals“, as colours, shapes, headpieces, flowers and fringes came together in one stunning presentation of fashion design and its finest. Long sentence, I know, but Pierpaolo Piccioli makes you feel ecstatic with his haute couture. From the yellow tiered wool yarn fringing and Hmong/Miao tribe-inspired headpieces to cartoonish leopard prints and Matisse cut-outs in acid colours, this show was spectacular. The cut, the plumage details, those subtle Yves Saint Laurent references, the out-of-this-world craftsmanship (note that pink dress made out of squares!) the joy, the magnificience… this collection is so deep in its beauty that it truly touches your soul. Bravo, bravo, bravo.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

International Wardrobe

The next time you’re in Berlin, please visit International Wardrobe. As the name suggests, it’s a store that sells hand-picked garments, accessories and curated objects from all over the world. The owner finds unique pieces in Ukraine (like the jacket from Hutul region), Transylvania region in Romania, Vietnam, Bolivia and other destinations, then thoroughly examines them in the very precise labels attached to each piece. The world’s most beautiful cultures under one address in the Mitte district. Learn through fashion, and let the one-of-a-kind craftsmanship into your wardrobe. Really, it’s all about the joy of styling!

Almstadtstraße 50 / Berlin

All photos by Edward Kanarecki.

It’s Diversity. Koché SS19

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Christelle Kocher, just like Marine Serre, likes to keep her fashion one-of-a-kind, but suited for real life. With the designer’s signature streetwear aesthetic, Koché is the brand that makes sweatpants and hoodies in the most couture way you can imagine – think meticulous embroideries and extraordinary fabric clashes. Kocher’s spring-summer 2019 instantly reminded me of Jean Paul Gaultier’s 1994 collection, so the at-the-time controversial Les Tatouages. Just like in Gaultier’s ‘startling vision of cross-cultural harmony‘, Christelle mixed and fused cultures and ethnicities in her collection, creating a wearable ode to style diversity. There were some very literal references to Jean Paul’s collection (hopefully credited), like the tattoo motif on transparent tops. Also, I noticed some old, good Yves Saint Laurent chic here too – see the le smoking look, styled with a red flower necklace. But mostly, the collection was quintessentially Koché – easy in approach and comfortable.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Kreuzberg Market

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That’s not your average market. This one specific market, located along the Spree river, takes place every Tuesday and Friday and booms with the unbelievable diversity of Berlin‘s Kreuzberg district. Cultures and ethnicities clash on the stalls in form of vegetables, jewellery and even oriental bread types. The people here are so unbelievably beautiful. Sellers talk, laugh and are absolutely open for any kind of bargaining. The market-goers buy and pack everything neatly into their stylish baskets. It’s chaotic, but in a very organic way. 

All photos by Edward Kanarecki.

Confidence. Eckhaus Latta SS18

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The thing about New York Fashion Week is that most of young designers, who show this time around are a) not standing for anything substantial or b) do The Row / Céline knock-offs. Eckhaus Latta, however, is far, far different. Maybe because Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta are originally from Los Angeles? Maybe. But coming back to NYFW, their fashion show had messages. Be confident. Be yourself. And respect your body. Transparency and volume play made the silhouettes of sheer dresses look radical, while various knits clung the body comfortably. One of the models was pregnant, and the designers embraced that in a beautiful manner by dressing her in a button-down dress that exposed her belly. The models varied in age as well as in gender and race. Full diversity isn’t a trend, but the ultimate truth for Eckhaus Latta.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Tim Walker’s Pirelli

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Although these are only the backstage images from the actual shoot, this steamy hot preview can’t be ignored. You might have already heard that Tim Walker was chosen by Pirelli to collaborate on 2018’s calendar. One thing was sure since the appointment became public – those wouldn’t be bombsell nudes, but twelve, extremely far-fetched visuals.

The casting is all-black and inovolves people from all walks of life. Designed by Shona Heath and styled by Edward Enninful, 2018’s calendar is all about the tale of Alice in (Walker’s) Wonderland. So, who plays whom? RuPaul is The Queen of Hearts, Lupita Nyong’o has the role of The Doormouse, Lil Yachty acting as The Queen’s Guard, Whoopi Goldberg portraying The Royal Duchess, and model Duckie Thot playing the titular Alice. There’s Thando Hopa (South African sexual offence lawyer turned model, who has albinism). There’s Puff Daddy (!). There’s Slick Woods and Adwoa Aboah. And there’s Naomi Campbell. “I’m the beheader: I chop people’s heads off. And I like it,” the supermodel declares. She continues, saying “this calendar is gonna be a historic calendar. It’s gonna go down in the history of Pirelli. It couldn’t be more balanced and diverse which is something we all strive for each day. And Tim, we love you, you’re a hero and this is gonna be the best calendar ever.” I love him to the moon and back too, Omi. Can’t wait to see the entire shoot!

Backstage photos by Alessandro Scotti.

Nadine Ijewere for Stella McCartney

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For her creative project #StellaBy, Stella McCartney invites different artists and photographers from around the world to work with the brand’s fashion. Recently, McCartney chose to collaborate with the captivating lens of fashion and portrait photographer Nadine Ijewere. Nadine is a South Londoner and is part Jamaican, part Nigerian. Nadine’s work reveals hidden depths in her subjects, shining a light on their strengths and vulnerabilities. We cannot get enough of her subtle yet striking use of colour, while her sense of storytelling leads our imaginations on a journey of discovery. Embracing diversity and untouched beauty, the photographer explores orientalism in fashion – the result is bold eclecticism and pure creativity on the Nigerian rural landscape.

All clothes in the shoot are from McCartney’s latest women’s and men’s collections.

Respect. Marc Jacobs AW17

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Marc Jacobs‘s autumn-winter 2017 collection praised the diverse street culture of New York – and it deserves respect.

Not only did the cast feature an impressive number of black models, but also, Jacobs decided to invite transgender girls to walk the show. Exceptionally, this ground-breaking fashion show wasn’t a venue show-off, as we’ve all got used to. A narrow aisle of chairs for the show’s guests crossed the huge Armory. No music, but the sound of models’ walk. A sudden exit to the streets of New York, where Adwoa Aboah, Lineisy Montero, Winnie Harlow and other models integrated with the city. If you ask me, I’m still awestricken with  the way Marc handled the collection, sparking one of the brightest moments of the entire New York fashion week. The clothes were all about tweed, corduroy, fur and Stephen Jones’ chic hats. Golden chain necklaces were designed in collaboration with artist Urs Fischer, nodding to the bold culture of hip-hop, while round bangles – perhaps to R&B. While other designers, like Alexander Wang or, eww, Philipp Plein, tend to repeat popular  stereotypes, Marc presented his own interpretation. The show’s theme could lead to something too literal, like a line of hoodies or sweatpants – but Marc ventured into the topic subtly and with heart.

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