Meet Mowalola Ogunlesi, the Nigerian designer chosen to style the iconic Barbie doll

The Lagos-born, London-based designer holds on tightly to her Nigerian roots which is reflected in her work.

Mowalola Ogunlesi (Joyce NG for Dazed)

Nigerian designer Mowalola Ogunlesi burst onto the fashion scene with her graduate collection from the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 2017.

Her debut menswear collection titled ‘Psychedelic’ featured the heavy materials of a roadside Lagos gas station mixed with tight leather garments.

Since then, Mowalola, her eponymous brand, has been worn by Drake, Solange Knowles in her Dazed cover shoot and was featured in Skepta’s hazy “Pure Water” video.

Ogunlesi was also involved with the launch of Nike’s Nigerian eye-catching jersey and has also received high praise from famous people like Kanye West.

The next highlight in her budding fashion career is being chosen to style Barbie, the world’s most popular doll.

In honour of Barbie’s 60th anniversary and to commemorate its global impact, Vogue commissioned Ogunlesi and five other young designers to dress the iconic doll in their signature style. 

She dressed Barbie in a look from her spring/summer 2020 collection — a neon green tie-dye co-ord with backcombed hair by Virginie P Moreira and make-up created by Daniel Sallstrom.

Explaining her style to Vogue, she said: “Mine is a world where everyone is free in terms of what they wear, in terms of how they think, and my women aren’t threatened by anyone — they are taking back their power.”

She added, “She is a Mowalola superhero — strong, captivating and ready to have a really good time. I want to be wherever she’s going.”

Ogunlesi is a third-generation designer whose grandmother started a womenswear brand in Nigeria in the 80s. Her parents were both designers. 

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