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mowalola london fashion week ss24
Photography Jamie-Maree Shipton

Mowalola apologises for turning the Saudi Arabian flag into a miniskirt

Debuted as part of the designer’s SS24 ‘Crash’ show at LFW, the style drew criticism from Saudi Arabian people across social media

After a stint in Paris for SS23, where she staged sexy BDSM-coded comeback show Burglar Wear, Mowalola fully bedded back down in London this season. 

The designer landed at cavernous Canning Town rave space Beams with an off-schedule show late on Friday night, where she dropped Crash – a collection which drew inspiration from David Cronenberg’s seminal erotic thriller. Not seen it? Based on J G Ballard’s book of the same name, the cult 1996 movie tells the story of a man who survives a brutal car crash and ends up getting involved with a bunch of people who are aroused by and fetishise vehicle collisions. Probably don’t watch it with your parents. 

The clothes themselves were quintessentially Mowa. To a soundtrack of grinding new metal [Alien Ant Farm] and Kanye West’s “Monster”, plus a new track from the controversial rapper, who sat on the FROW alongside the designer herself as the show played out, out came supermodel Irina Shayk in a slinky, body-skimming gunmetal grey column dress with Mowa’s name plastered across the chest Everlast-style. With her slick, sweat-soaked hair and bruised eye paint – courtesy of make-up maestro Isamaya Ffrench – Shayk looked like a character from the movie, pulled fresh from a car wreck. 

Beyond the opening look, the collection was bolshy, sexually-charged business as usual, with Mowa turning out barely-there bum-flashing pelmet skirts and booty-shorts, beaten-up denim jawns, and, more curiously, looks designed for two. With twins hot on catwalks across the globe right now [looking at you Gucci and Sunnei], she went one step further and stuck them in enormous t-shirts and track jackets designed for two conjoined people. It made sense when you understood the context of the collection, which grappled with issues of self-love and acceptance. 

The tongue-in-cheek, typically off-kilter collection was largely received well, with Mowalola stans sending it viral across social media. However, soon after it wrapped, across social media, the designer faced backlash from people in Saudi Arabia and the Muslim communities across the globe for turning the country’s flag into a miniskirt of belt-like proportions. Saudi Arabia's green and white banner not only represents a deeply conservative nation, where modest dressing is the norm, but has strong religious connotations, too: “There is no god but God, Muhammad is the prophet of God” reads the Arabic script at its centre. 

Now, Mowalola has taken to X to apologise and offer an explanation. “One of my key inspirations for SS24 was to use the national flags of different countries,” she wrote in a post [other flags used included the UK and Japan’s]. “After the show, I found that one of these flags – Saudi Arabia features sacred words, and its use has caused great offence. Now that I’ve been educated on this topic I sincerely apologise for this.” She added that the design will be removed from the upcoming collection, and that she “deeply regret[s] any hurt or offence my oversight has caused”. “Thank you for holding me accountable, I appreciate your understanding as I learn from this experience,” she finished.

Mowalola then also addressed claims of fatphobia directed at her latest collection: one t-shirt, designed for two people to wear, was plastered with the slogan ‘4 Slim People’, which she explained on X was a satirical riff on a Chanel design created by Karl Lagerfeld, who himself was a self-confessed fatphobe. “Ur rage is valid, but I will always be humorous,” she wrote in response to a post by model Aaron Phillip, who called the motives behind the top into question. “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.”