Mowalola Ogunlesi, designer of eponymous ready-to-wear label Mowalola, presented the brand's Spring 2024 collection during London Fashion Week on Saturday, and it immediately spurred plenty of controversy for one design in particular.
The 28-year-old sent several mini skirts with the designs of international flags printed onto them down the runway, including those of Japan, the United Kingdom and the one in question — Saudi Arabia. What makes the latter stand out is that Saudi Arabia's flag has the Islamic Shahada written across it, a sacred text of the Muslim faith which translates in English to "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God." Because of the phrase, the flag is considered holy, making printing the flag onto clothing a blasphemous act.
Immediately following the Mowalola presentation, observers took to the designer's Instagram page, mass commenting emojis of the flag and asking Ogunlesi to respect the text and apologize for the design. The designer then took to X (previously known as Twitter) to seemingly mock the comments, posting "Cry me a river" and "A mini skirt being an act of war in 2023 is so dystopian." These posts have since been deleted.
As pleas to apologize persisted online, Ogunlesi took to X once more to apologize:
"One of my key inspirations for SS24 was to use the national flags of different countries. After the show, I found that one of these flags — Saudi Arabia — features sacred words, and its use has caused great offense. Now that I've been educated on this topic, I sincerely apologize for this. I'll ensure this design is removed from the collection. I deeply regret any hurt or offense my oversight may have caused. Thank you for holding me accountable, and I appreciate your understanding as I learn from this experience."
Though it is unclear when the look was removed, Vogue Runway seemingly followed Mowalola's lead, removing the image from its online overview of the collection.
This isn't the only controversy from Mowalola's Spring 2024 runway, though. Another look from the collection featured two models wearing a T-shirt with the phrase "4 Slim People" printed across the front — a design originally from Karl Lagerfeld's Spring 2004 collection.
Ur rage is valid , but I will always be humorous. I flipped this karl lagerfeld 4 slim people tank top . It is funny to me because I hv never seen any plus size on a Chanel runway & I never see this rage towards them . https://t.co/cIySV9WVOU pic.twitter.com/IDUAxvc3Xt
— Mowalola (@MOWALOLA_) September 17, 2023
In a post to X on Sunday, Ogunlesi responded to comments about the design saying, "Ur [sic] rage is valid, but I will always be humorous. I flipped this karl lagerfeld 4 slim people tank top. It is funny to me because I hv [sic] never seen any plus size on a Chanel runway & I never see this rage towards them."
The designer also hosted Ye (previously known as Kanye West) at the show (which happened to take place on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year) and used an unreleased song of the rapper's as the collection's soundtrack. (Ye has remained a controversial figure for a variety of statements and actions over the years, notably including a slew of anti-semitic comments in Oct. 2022, and then doubling down on his offensive words.)
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On Sunday morning, Ogunlesi commented on his presence, posting to Instagram, "Ye & Bianca you are my angels," as part of a larger message of thanks to her supporters.
Mowalola did not immediately respond to Fashionista's request for comment.