“Sue Me” was the challenge on look 17’s tank. After this show The Yankees, the NBA, Marlboro, and MoMA might well feel entitled to take Mowalola Ogunlesi up on that. But they shouldn’t. Their witty bootlegging at the hands of Ogunlesi was a creatively valid (if legally dubious) appropriation of IP that served to garnish a New York-themed collection that dripped with generationally-specific, but also broadly eternal, tensions and needs.
Backstage the designer explained her rationale: “It’s about the collapse of society. What I envision people wearing at the end time.” That collapse’s trigger, she reckoned, might be sparked by the membrane that now connects us all: “low-key we’re literally in the last fight between life and tech. And I feel like a lot of corporations are gaining massive power over a lot of things.” This is true, but was ever thus, just via different platforms. Still, this The Last of Us starting-point, albeit fungus-free, triggered a highly entertaining fashion dystopia.
Mowalola is a powerfully desirous marque: the ingeniously-gartered Zoom-call-with-benefits, pants-down jeans and skirt; the crotch-hands shorts, pants, and skirts; the Insert Disc Here dress (how analogue!); and the closing series of dancehall fits all pointed to that, as did the masks. Said Ogunlesi of these: “it’s about an aspect of life that is kind of put in the dark, which is our true desires. A lot of people don’t celebrate them. You have politicians who do things, and when it comes out, they act like it wasn’t them.”
There will always be traction for a brand built in youth that throws barbs at the hypocrisy of the elders—epitomized here of course by tailoring—and which champions freedom of expression in resistance to systems. Mowalola looks like a fresh chapter of an old story that should read well in the same digital landscape against which she is cleverly positioning herself as a questioner.