A Conversation on Afromodernism & Fashion

Mobolaji Dawodu and Marjon Carlos / Photo Courtesy of Freddie Rankin II

Mobolaji Dawodu and Marjon Carlos / Photo Courtesy of Freddie Rankin II


NEW YORK, United States - It is not often that an audience of black writers, models, designers, and consummate creatives from the diaspora come together to discuss the state of African themes, motifs, and techniques and their respective influences on the Western fashion landscape. Such was the case yesterday evening at NeueHouse, a private social club on 110 East 25th Street in New York City.  

Hosted by OXOSI and moderated by Vogue.com Senior Fashion Writer Marjon Carlos, the conversation -- aptly titled Afromodernism & Fashion -- toasted the accomplishments of stylist, fashion director, and costume designer Mobolaji Dawodu and the prominence of an African aesthetic in his work. 

Born in Virginia, but raised in Nigeria, Dawodu journeyed to New York City at 18 years of age to study at the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising (LIM) following an interest in fashion that began during his formative childhood years, assisting his mother in her clothing business. As fashion director of newly-launched quarterly magazine GQ Style and costume designer behind Disney's Queen of Katwe, Dawodu commands an impressive platform and is reflective on the multi-dimensionality of today's cosmopolitan African: one who is increasingly well-traveled and consistently embraces cultural flexibility between seemingly disparate identities. In fact, he is one - having parents who when meeting in college (his mother of the American South, his father of Nigeria) on paper could not have been any more distinct. 

Clothing is secondary. Taste and style is how you live your life.
— Mobolaji Dawodu

His global perspective achieved through extensive travel to over fifty countries (not only within Africa, but also within parts of Asia and Europe) heavily shapes his approach to styling and aesthetics generally. A principle within his work, 'to know his history,' is no doubt a critical aspect of his particular visual expression. He is quick to do away with labels and is largely focused on individual people and their experiences. He shared, "Clothing is secondary. Taste and style is how you live your life." 

Afromodernism, at least in the way OXOSI defines it, is all about a social and creative renaissance within African fashion. The lives of African makers are swiftly evolving with the rise of social media and the means by which to convey one's vision to an international crowd is becoming easier than ever before. Dawodu's parting advice to enterprising creatives: "Have your own workshop." Perhaps curt, but the lesson remains: ownership of one's brand will surely drive the dialogue on fashion coming out of Africa.

Watch the replay of Afromodernism & Fashion on OXOSI here.