Ugo Mozie’s career cannot be summed up in just one-line Since launching his first clothing label, Aston Mozie, at only 17-years-old, the Nigeria-born creative has styled some of entertainment’s biggest personalities and become one of the fashion industry’s most influential voices for sustainability and African representation.
Now a resident of Los Angeles, Mozie, who has worked with the likes of Justin Bieber, Beyoncé, Celine Dion, and Mary J. Blige, has dedicated the last few years to incubating and providing a platform for young African creatives through his non-profit organization, WANA, which he co-founded in 2017. He also recently launched a fragrance collection, Mosaic, inspired by the African diaspora, which donates a portion of profits to AAUW, an organization that empowers women and improves communities across Africa.
Mozie’s work ethic can only be paralleled by his deep-rooted passion for mental health awareness and positive thinking; he peppers his Instagram daily with inspirational quotes that he claims help him overcome the hurdles of an otherwise “competitive, judgmental, and lonely” fashion industry. In a field where vulnerability and mind positivity run scarce, Mozie’s candidness when endorsing such issues makes him refreshingly unique.
We spoke with Mozie about his recent efforts to promote sustainability in fashion, how he’s been driving awareness to the creative wealth offered in his home country, and what personal endeavors he’s most excited for in 2019.
When and how did your interest in fashion first come about?
Ugo Mozi: “My interest in fashion started as early as I can remember. As a kid, I was always intrigued by the way someone’s way of dress could reflect their feelings and behavior and how people treated you when you appeared a certain way. I used clothing as my first form of artistic expression and this evolved into my interest in fashion and style.”
How would you describe your personal style?
UM: “I would describe my personal style as ‘cultured.’ I feel like my style represents the exposure I’ve had to different cultures, people, and places. I grab a bit of everything I love and express it through my daily looks.”
In what ways has social media altered consumer behavior? How do you think brands are reacting to this?
UM: “Social media has made it hard for the average person to not be a consumer. It has made advertising, shopping, and staying in touch extremely easy and accessible.
“Influencers and celebrities have yet another way to advertise and promote brands and products, and I believe brands are taking full advantage of this new wave. However, I see a shift coming soon as people are now more aware of the strategy and techniques used to push products and brands. People are growing increasingly wary of ads.”
You’ve described yourself as a “fashion activist.” How would you explain this term?
UM: “I describe myself as a fashion activist because I have a strong goal to change the way fashion is perceived globally. I focus on creating sustainable fashion solutions in developing countries. I invest in young fashion entrepreneurs in Africa that create sustainable fashion. I use my platform to push sustainability and create opportunities for young fashion enthusiasts.”
In what ways does your Nigerian heritage influence your creativity? How does your culture come through in your work today?
UM: “My Nigerian heritage plays a large role in my creativity and work, especially my personal style and aesthetic, which reflect a modern African feel. Being born in Nigeria and having such a strong connection to my culture has always compelled me to express this in my work.”
You’re a strong advocate for positive thinking and mental health awareness. In an industry that can oftentimes be plagued with toxicity and negative influences, how do you sustain a healthy outlook? What advice can you give to people who struggle in this area?
UM: “I work in a very competitive, judgmental, and lonely industry. Being fully aware of this, I always put my mental and physical health first. I understand that the pace and quality of my work is a direct reflection of how I feel internally. The best advice I’ve been given this year is to put myself first, and, as selfish as that may sound, I believe this is how we should all live and think. If we can put ourselves, health, and career first, we can be fully equipped to take on life’s challenges. Confidence is key and that comes from within.”
Although underrepresented ethnic groups have made tremendous progress in getting their talents recognized, diversity is still an issue in this field. Does a more diverse fashion industry seem hopeful in a few years time, or is there still a ways to go?
UM: “I believe the fashion industry is indeed becoming more diverse. I hold lectures and workshops quarterly at Oxford University in the UK, and these talks are always driven by inclusion and diversity.
“People all over the world are becoming more and more aware of the power of diversifying their brand and image. There’s definitely a long way to go for everyone to truly feel represented and included, but I feel that we are moving in the right direction.”
What strides can be made to make fashion more sustainable?
UM: “To make fashion more sustainable, we can all do our parts to be mindful and aware of what we purchase and consume. There are sustainable options for almost every type of fabric now, from silk to leather. All we have to do is a little research and the solutions will reveal themselves.”
As a resident of Los Angeles, where does the city stand against other more prominent fashion capitals like Paris, New York, Milan, and London?
UM: “I’m fully aware of the global influence and impact this city has on pop culture and (recently) fashion. However, until a few years ago, LA wasn’t really considered a fashion capital or a place where trends emerged from. But now, with the rise of social media and influencer/celebrity marketing, it seems like the world has all eyes on LA. Being home to all your favorite celebrities, influencers, and brands like Fear of God, Amiri, and Rhude have developed a newfound respect for the city that I believe will last for a very long time.”
What are you most excited for in 2019?
UM: “I’m most excited to finally share something I’ve been working on for years with the world. 2019 is ‘The Year of the Return,’ meaning this year marks the 400th year that the first Africans were taken from the coast of West Africa and transported to be slaves. I’m using this year to bring large groups of my friends and peers to experience and document the beauty of Africa. I’m very passionate about changing the narrative that the average person has on Africa and exposing the true beauty, wealth, and culture that the continent holds.”