Meet the five new faces of Mowalola’s world
We learn more about the stars of the Yeezy Gap Design Director’s no-clothes campaign from our summer issue.
If you’ve read our interview with Mowalola Ogunlesi in The Faith In Chaos Issue, you’ll know that the London-based designer and newly appointed Yeezy Gap Design Director has always been one to march to the beat of her own drum. That said, though she may be blazing a trail through the fashion industry fuelled by the strength of her own convictions, she’s no lone ranger.
At the heart of the Mowalola brand is a close community, formed of individuals all equally committed to living life just the way they want. In the imagery that Mowalola shot for our summer print issue -- a campaign for the brand’s instant sell-out handbags -- we were introduced to five of its members. With her campaign stars all under lockdown from the suburbs of Toronto to Lagos, Mowalola made the most of the virtual globality that recent times have awakened us all to, shooting her muses naked in the comfort of their own homes from the comfort of hers in east London. Just afterwards, we gave them each a call to learn more about the five fresh faces of Mowalola’s world.
AMKMQ, 21, London
“I’ve technically been stranded in London over lockdown, because the US border is closed. I study economics and international relations at Brown, and painting at RISD -- I really enjoy the duality of being an artist and an academic, and I eventually want to be a human rights lawyer. I don't think I have to compromise on that.
In my art, I really like using things that you find on social media, making it as overwhelming and oversaturated -- just as it feels to be a part of our generation. I've been painting and drawing since I was like three, so by the time I chose to go to art school, I was past the point where I needed to paint to get across what I wanted to say. There's so much more visual vocabulary that I can access, like videos and photoshop and graphic design.
Because there aren't many women like me on the Lagos-London art scene, I always felt a little lonely prior to seeing Mowa's work. It’s so audacious and carnal and so open to sexuality and sex. I was instantly drawn to it. I didn't properly gauge her, though, until November last year, when she released Silent Madness. It drove me insane! I was so taken aback. When you see someone who's paving their own way, it makes you more comfortable with yourself. It's really uncommon to see that in Lagos, which is actually quite a traditional place. People can be very judgmental, and societal expectations are so important. Now, realising that we don't have to abide by that, that there are other African women doing the same thing, I just really respect that.”
Chi Virgo, 24, London
“I'm a musician, a singer/songwriter... I don't tend to say modelling is my main thing. I enjoy it so much though, and when I was younger I was a die-hard ANTM fan! But I'm not naturally really skinny, so it was so difficult for me to get into. But by not focussing on trying to be a model, I've found that things just sort of pop-up really organically.
“I met Mowa last April at a Drake concert. It was my first ever concert, so it's very prominent in my mind. We just got talking about Nigeria, as she's from there and I'm half-Nigerian, and she was super friendly. The first thing I thought on seeing her work was: 'Wow. It's just so cool!' I think everyone can appreciate it, even if it's not necessarily your style. I love the leather and darkness of it all; Mowa is able to make people feel incredibly sexy without the need for whips and chains.
When she asked me to pose nude, my first reaction was: 'Ah, I really wanna do it, but I need to ask my mum!' I sat her down and was like 'I think I'm gonna do this shoot, and I'm gonna be naked.' She just sort of looked at me, like 'What are you talking about'. But she was actually watching me while I was doing it! At one point, I was trying to get the bag on my back, so I had to ask her to help me out.
I wanted to convey sexiness, while keeping them as tasteful as possible. I wanted to ooze sex appeal, but in a reserved sort of way. Because I am pretty reserved, so I think that came across quite naturally.”
Deto Black, 25, Lagos
“I guess I'd describe myself as a creative -- I just like making things and creating things. I’ve worked on films, as well as on creative direction for shoots. I did called 'Nolly Babes'. It was inspired by old Nollywood, which has kind of subconsciously inspired our fashion and our style. It just took off on the internet and was received really well by everyone.
I also just released a song, it's called 'Body Count'. I recorded it with one of my really good friends, Odunsi. It was a song that he played me off his album, and it was supposed to be on there. When I heard it, I was like 'Oh my god, this is so fire, I need to be on this.' One night, we recorded at my other friend Santi's house, and the rest is history!
I’ve known Mowa since I was four! We met in reception. I just remember seeing this girl and thinking, 'Oh my god, she's so cool' and we just became best friends instantly. She’s such a powerful force. My whole life, all she's ever done for me is encourage and push me to do more.
I feel like this shoot felt like a really big step for Nigerian women. It was about us reclaiming our bodies and our autonomy back. I just wanted to convey power. I feel like I'm in a transition period in my life and I just wanted it to be very evident that I control my body, and that I run shit here.”
Maxine, 25, London
“Maxine was kind of born when I moved to London. I felt a lot more free here, and could just do whatever I wanted and not feel judged. I used to go to PDA dressed up as her, and then did a shoot for Fenty, and just felt really comfortable.
Mowa and I used to follow each other on Tumblr before I moved to London, and then during my first year we met at some party at the Ace Hotel and just became really good friends.
I'd introduce the Mowalola world as very chaotic, but super super sexy. If you're scared of sex and showing skin, then I'm not sure if it's for you. I have a screenshot of a conversation that we had, and she was just like: ‘Just be your own god, do whatever you want.’ It's a good thing to have in mind especially when I'm dressing up as Maxine and walking the streets.
For the shoot, she tried out some of the poses herself, and then I was like 'No, let me do some', because I've got the bag at home. The energy Maxine was conveying was really 'Do whatever you want' -- just be yourself and be free.”
Bahati Imaan Beauvais, 25, Mississauga
“I'm not really sure how to describe what I do. I guess I started out with photography really young, when I was about four or five. I've also been reading from a really young age as well, and now I've become a writer. I always tried to write in prose, but the most you get out of me is flash fiction, and I write poetry too.
I'd always seen Mowalola on Tumblr, but because I live in Canada, I wasn't connected to anyone from back home. When her clothes first came out, I was like, 'Oh my god, what the fuck!' My friend Odunsi met her in England when he was on tour and she styled one of his shows.
When Mowa asked me to be part of the shoot, I was like 'Yaaass, OK!' I only really thought about how naked I was when I saw some edit later on! But once you tell me about the idea of transforming myself into a vision that you have, I'm very into it. I love becoming a character.
I just wanted to be the bad girl that I know I have inside of me. I've always given myself different names and personalities, which is a thing that Mars in Leo people apparently like to do. So this was the start of Babyslut, and I've basically been Babyslut for a couple of months now.
I love that Mowa is Nigerian, because our country can be really backwards. Even the people that are forward are backwards: our feminists and representatives. The community is very restricted, and it's actually really hard to be who you want to be. But when I see Mowalola's work, it makes me feel like I can be free.”
Creative Direction Mowalola
Editing Aidan Zamiri
Special thanks to DUCK Productions.
All clothing and accessories Mowalola.