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Fashion designer apologises after parading Saudi flag mini-skirt

September 18, 2023 at 3:04 pm

Mowalola Ogunlesi attends the LOVE & YouTube LFW party supported by Perriet-Jouet and hosted by Katie Grand & Derek Blasberg at Decimo at The Standard, London, on September 16, 2019 in London, England [Dave Benett/Getty Images for LOVE Magazine]

Social media ignited with fury as users vented their outrage at Mowalola Ogunlesi, the brand designer behind Mowalola, for unveiling a new mini-skirt featuring the Saudi Arabian flag at London Fashion Week.

During the brand’s Spring 2024 collection showcase, Ogunlesi entertained the audience with mini-skirts sporting designs of flags from around the world, including Japan, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.

Following the show, Ogunlesi’s Instagram page saw a surge of Saudi Arabian flag emojis in the comments, with many demanding an apology, outlining that the flag contains the Muslim declaration of faith which is pinnacle to the Islamic faith. The designer first took to Twitter, now known as X, to respond by defending the skirt with now-deleted tweets, retorting, “Cry me a river,” and adding, “A mini skirt as an act of war in 2023 is so dystopian.”

However, Ogunlesi later had a change of heart and issued a formal apology, acknowledging that she had learned more about the flag and understood her mistake.


“One of my key inspirations for SS24 was to use the national flags of different countries,” she said in a statement. “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,” Ogunlesi wrote.

“I’ll ensure this design is removed from the collection. I deeply regret any hurt or offence my oversight may have caused. Thank you for holding me accountable, and I appreciate your understanding as I learn from this experience.”

However, one user pointed out that the designer’s initial response was rude, remarking, “This was your initial reaction, so this apology feels quite performative and insincere. It seems you’re only sorry because of the backlash you rightly received.”

Another user emphasised that the concern isn’t about the skirt but rather about the inclusion of the Saudi flag, which features the shahada (declaration of faith). This is viewed as not only disrespectful to Saudis but also to the broader global Muslim community.

The Saudi flag bears the sacred text of the Muslim faith, which translates to: “There is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God.” This flag is regarded as a religious symbol because of its inscription, and featuring it on a skirt is seen as an act of blasphemy.

Originally from Nigeria, designer Mowalola Ogunlesi is now based in London. Renowned as both a designer and a singer, Ogunlesi is famous for her innovative use of diverse textures and materials in her creations, crafting unconventional styles influenced by youth culture.

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