Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Returns With Black Designers’ Designs on the Runway

The Victoria’s Secret fashion show has made a highly anticipated comeback after a five-year hiatus and is available for streaming on Amazon Prime today, September 26th. This year’s show will showcase the work of 20 talented creatives from various fields such as fashion, film, design, music, and visual arts, hailing from vibrant cities like Bogota, Lagos, London, and Tokyo. Among the designers involved is Bubu Ogisi, the founder of IAMSIGO and a passionate advocate for African fashion made by Africans in Africa. Ogisi’s collection for the show reflects her commitment to celebrating African philosophies, fabrics, and techniques, while also challenging traditional perceptions of African brands. Model Mayowa Nicholas, who transitioned from being an accounting student to gracing runways worldwide, will be featured prominently in the show, showcasing Bubu’s designs.

Ebony had the opportunity to speak to both Bubu and Mayowa, delving into their respective journeys and experiences working with Victoria’s Secret below.

Mayowa Nicholas. Image: Sofia Malamute for Victoria’s Secret

Mayowa, originally from Nigeria, never considered modeling as a career. Like many Black children in the country, she was encouraged to focus on education and pursue traditional jobs. Growing up with a single mother, Mayowa saw accounting as a practical choice to secure financial stability. However, her perspective shifted when she was approached on the street to participate in a modeling competition with Elite Models. Despite feeling inadequate compared to professional models, she decided to compete and ended up winning the competition. This unexpected victory led her to China for a modeling contract, where she experienced a culture shock and faced discrimination. Nevertheless, Mayowa persevered and was selected for contracts along with 14 other girls. Making the difficult decision to leave school and her family behind, she embarked on a journey to Paris, where she walked her first show during Couture Fashion Week for Schiaparelli. 

A few years later, while in New York, Mayowa’s agent presented her with an opportunity to audition for Victoria’s Secret. Initially nervous, she declined but later seized the chance the following year. Unfortunately, she encountered visa issues when trying to travel to China for the show. However, the following year, Mayowa not only got the opportunity to walk the Victoria’s Secret show but also had the joy of her mother being present in New York to witness her success. It is often the case that parents of those in creative fields only truly understand their work when they see it firsthand. Mayowa’s mother proudly shared her daughter’s achievements with family and friends through group chats and social media.

Image: Sofia Malamute for Victoria’s Secret

Designer Bubu Ogisi began her career with a passion for fiber research, materiality research, and ancestral techniques. Growing up in various countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, and England, and attending school in Paris, she has witnessed the rich culture and abundance of fabrics and materials in Africa, particularly in Nigerian weddings and events. This experience led her to explore fiber techniques, reading techniques, and the actual materiality of textiles. Attending school in Ghana further exposed her to the similarities in these techniques across different countries, whether they are Anglophone, Francophone, or Portuguese-speaking, albeit with different names.

Ogisi found it fascinating to observe how weaving techniques are executed in various styles and with personal variations, such as Asha key in Nigeria, kente in Ghana, and Heat kita. Understanding these similarities and differences she shaped her work and allowed her to showcase the intricate fiber research and the magic that can be created with one’s hands, even in places that have been overlooked. Bubu’s inspiration often stems from ancient, historical, and mythological stories, as she believes that by retelling these narratives, we can decolonize minds and introduce new ideas. The world has often favored certain stories as truth while neglecting others. Bubu aims to shed light on untold stories and utilize language as a material to bring these ideas to life through fabrication.

Image: Sofia Malamute for Victoria’s Secret

Bubu initially did not respond when contacted by Victoria’s Secret, but later decided to take the call and engage in a conversation with the entire team. The energy during the discussion was cohesive and aligned with everyone involved, which is something Bubu values when collaborating with others. This project provided an exciting opportunity for Bubu to continue telling a story that she has been passionate about for a long time.
Bubu saw this as a chance to share her story with Victoria’s Secret, particularly in relation to the concept of Victoria and its connection to mythological deities. Through her own tradition, country, and continent, she aims to convey the mythological stories of Africa. Extensive research has been conducted on cosmological and mythological stories from Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

The collection draws inspiration from Roman and Greek mythological stories, with a specific focus on the goddess Nike. Bubu’s aim is to showcase the stories of 10 to 11 unisex deities, including the God of War, the God of Space and Time, and the God of Water. The European Edo mythology, originating from Nigeria, has had a significant influence on the concept. The overall concept revolves around showcasing the feminine divine through the idea of a goddess, represented by the jewelry’s secret stone. Each deity is associated with specific materials, colors, and superpowers. Sourcing and creating the pieces required to travel across the continent.

Mayowa and Bubu have a history of working together, as Mayowa previously modeled for Bubu when she was 16 years old. Reconnecting at the age of 25 was a significant and meaningful moment for both of them, representing a full circle in their professional relationship. Throughout the process, there were moments of hugs, indicating a strong bond between them. Bubu’s vision for the project included hairstyles that paid homage to the ancestors, resulting in intricate styles that were truly unique and unlike anything Victoria’s Secret had done before.

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Updated: September 26, 2023 — 3:02 pm