Portrait of Mowalola Ogunlesi by Thurstan Redding
Written by Ogunbiyi Ayobami Lolade | Header Photo by Thurstan Redding 


Mowalola Ogunlesi is a Nigerian designer who was officially announced as the Design director for the YZY GAP 10-year partnership. This announcement was made by Kanye West on the 26th of June, 2020.

Mowalola is renowned for working with a wide range of textiles including leather and PVC to create non-traditional silhouettes influenced by the youth culture of Nigeria and London. She is the daughter of Adenike Ogunlesi who is the founder of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble and her grandmother, Betty Okuboyejo is also a fashion designer. 

Mowalola was the stylist on the campaign shoot for unveiling the most beautiful World Cup jersey – the Nigerian Jersey – in 2018. She created outfits for Skepta’s “Pure Water” music video and was one of six designers approached by British Vogue to style Barbie dolls for the brand’s 60th anniversary.

In an interview with Durga Chew-Bose for SSENSE, she gave an insight into what her childhood looked like and her journey in fashion designing. Up until the point where she wrote her GSCEs, she wanted to be a surgeon so bad because she watched a lot of Nip/Tuck. She went to Central Saint Martins. Central Saint Martins (CSM) is a public tertiary art school in London, England. She grew so much at CSM and it was at that point she realized what she liked and her vision became clearer. As much as she grew and learnt so much at CSM, she didn’t like their platform and she felt she needed to be with people who understood her and were on the same page with her. 

With her designs, she had established that gender constructs are not necessary, certain genders don’t need to have certain wardrobe restrictions and people can wear whatever they feel comfortable in. 

Drake wearing a custom Halle Berry jacket by Mowalola Ogunlesi.
Photo: Theo Skudra

Mowalola is one of many Nigerians who have been making a positive impact around the world. She has managed to put Nigeria on the map through hard work and commitment which, contrary to what the popular media projects, is a trait possessed by so many of our youths.

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