Ugo Mozie is putting the spotlight back on Africa

A man in a matching two piece sitting in front of a red curtain

The Nigerian-born, LA-based stylist and creative director has worked with the likes of Beyoncé and Travis Scott. Here, he discusses how his nonprofit organisation, WANA, is providing communities with sustainable support and shares his pick of African designers to know

By Britt Julious    Above image courtesy of Ugo Mozie     Wednesday 30 September, 2020    Short read

Creativity doesn’t stop for stylist and fashion activist Ugo Mozie just because the rest of the world is on pause. In fact, these unprecedented times have given him a special opportunity to think even bigger about his hopes to grow his own practice. As well as working with entertainment heavyweights like Justin Bieber and Travis Scott, he’s also expanding the outreach of his nonprofit organisation, We Are New Africa (WANA). 

For Mozie, style has always been an intricate part of his world. Born in Enugu, Nigeria, and raised in Los Angeles, he says working in fashion was a natural fit for his creative pursuits. ‘I feel like the fashion world kind of found me,’ he explains. ‘I always knew that I wanted to be in the world of entertainment, and work alongside people who were changing the world. I wanted to have a job that allows me to have a global impact.’
A man in a silk short suit sits on a black velvet chair

Orange Culture

A group of models standing on some steps

Tongoro Studio

In 2009, aged 18, Mozie debuted his first fashion line, Aston Mozie. Since then, he has worked with stars as far-ranging as Celine Dion, Beyoncé and J Balvin, among many others, in the worlds of styling and creative direction. In 2014, he became the US PR Director for Vivienne Westwood, and in 2015, he released a luxury hat line. Most recently, he launched Mosaic Perfume, a North and West African-based luxury perfume company.

But his most ambitious creative pursuit may be the nonprofit organisation, WANA. Founded in 2017, the pan-African initiative aims to work with local and international partners to improve youth education, and transform the perceptions of Africa from around the world. Using his platform of fashion, Mozie and WANA highlight different artists, creatives and entrepreneurs in Africa, giving them a voice, while also pursuing sustainable practices that better the world as a whole. 

The idea of WANA, Mozie says, stemmed from a summer visit to Nigeria. While he was there, Mozie gave away boxes of brand-new clothes and partnered with companies like Reebok and Under Armour for donations. ‘I spent months giving things out and meeting the kids. And [while] I did a great thing, it was not sustainable enough,’ he says. ‘That gave me the idea of really building more and creating a platform that can bring sustainable, long-term help, rather than one meal or one outfit.’
A man in stylish colourful clothing sits on a chair outside
Kenneth Ize
Since its launch, WANA has built a sports centre in the Makoko neighbourhood of Lagos. Partnering with ESPN and the Brazilian company Beyond Sport, the organisation purchased four acres of property for its sports centre, which includes a tennis court, a basketball court, and a soccer field. WANA is currently building a film school in Kampala, Uganda, in a refugee camp called the Naka Valley Refugee Camp. The school should be completed by December and will include cameras donated by Canon.

‘I chose a film school simply because of the storytelling aspect,’ says Mozie. ‘I wanted to create a place that people can use. Kids can come and learn how to operate cameras, edit, and write, tell and share their stories. I really believe in the power of stories and the power of people being able to tell them directly.’

In the future, Mozie aims to create a grant fund to empower small businesses and young people trying to launch their own businesses. Many young people – both in Africa and the United States – believe success can only manifest through a few outlets or means, but Mozie aims to break that line of thinking. ‘I’m trying to tell stories that push the narrative and the ideas of African culture to the forefront,’ he says. ‘I want to tell stories that really show the world a different perspective on my culture.’
A woman in a black and white dress sits on a step outside

Tongoro Studio

A stylish shop front

Alara boutique in Lagos

According to Mozie, personal style is one’s identity. ‘Before somebody can get to know your name or where you’re from or even hear your accent, the first representation of you is what you have on,’ he says. And as a major fan of fashion, Mozie has favourite African stores and designers from around the globe. Here are his top picks. 

Orange Culture
‘This was the first African menswear brand I noticed explore modern silhouettes [and] cuts. It took African style and colours and brought them into the future.’

Tongoro Studio
‘[This is] my favourite African womenswear line. Worn by only the most influential and powerful women in the world, the brand [exudes] confidence and sex appeal, while still [being] made for a boss.’

Kenneth Ize
‘I love Ize’s take on classic African materials. He reinvented a traditional fabric and made it Vogue-worthy. It’s such a unique brand.’

Alara boutique in Lagos
‘It’s my favourite store in Africa. Actually, in the world. It’s a super-luxury, high-end, African boutique. And it carries all the amazing [designers], from Gucci, Givenchy and Christian Dior to the dopest Western and African designers.’

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