I remember when I was living in London in the ’90s, and suddenly, everyone was talking about Ozwald Boateng, this handsome tailor who made incredibly well-cut suits with bright-coloured lining. Born in London to Ghanaian parents, Boateng was the youngest tailor to open a shop on the prestigious Savile Row. It was impressive to see how fast he was rising to fame. The designer was, for example, the first tailor to present a collection at Paris Fashion Week. And Boateng made history again in 2003 when he was appointed creative director of menswear at Givenchy, becoming the first black head designer for a luxury fashion house. Additionally, Oswald Boateng was also awarded an O.B.E by the Queen in 2006, for his services to the clothing industry.
How this star was born
Ozwald Boateng studied fashion at Southgate College. He began creating his first pieces using his mother’s sewing machine and selling them in Covent Garden. In 1986, he set up a design studio on the trendy Portobello Road, which quickly became the go-to place for cool menswear. In fact, the designer was still in his earlier twenties and had already dressed the likes of Mick Jagger, Jimmy Paige and Spike Lee.
A piece of Africa on Savile Row
In 1995, a year after taking part in PFW, Boateng opened his retail shop in London. And he chose the best spot; the end of Savile Row, the most prestigious and traditional address for bespoke menswear in the U.K. and possibly, the world. With an incredible sense of colour, the hip tailor became known for fusing traditional British tailoring with a modern aesthetic and the hues from his Ghanaian heritage. “For me, colour has always had a lot of meaning, its emotive and powerful, when combined properly it evokes confidence, style and individuality”, explained Boateng.
Awarded Best Menswear Designer in Paris in 1996, Boateng’s fame continued to rise. Part of the new wave of British stars from music, film and fashion, he brought coolness to Savile Row. In Vanity Fair’s special edition “London Swings Again”, the designer was described as leading the way in British men’s tailoring.
Ozwald Boateng’s gang
Over the years, Ozwald Boateng has provided the wardrobe for several films like the cult movie Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. He dressed Will Smith for Bad Boys 2, Stanford Blatch of Sex in the City, and the male cast of The Matrix. He also created the looks for Paul Bettany and David Thewlis in the movie Gangster No.1. And recently, he made a teal single-button suit for Black Panther, inspired by the dandy Ankara style in Africa. Being the darling of actors and musicians, we often see his creations on the red carpet. For example, Jamie Foxx, Idris Elba, Leonardo di Caprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Will Smith, among others, have worn Ozwald Boateng tailored looks to the Oscars. By the way, on that occasion, fashion critic Suzy Menkes said Will Smith should have won the Oscar for best-dressed man.
First Creative Director to direct a Manga film
While creative director of menswear at Givenchy, the talented designer, who had already made some short films, created a Japanese manga-style film about his moving to Paris for Givenchy. Boateng wrote and directed the animation film. He also wrote and directed a short film to present his second collection for Givenchy.
Taking the streets of London
The documentary A Man’s Story followed the designer throughout 12 years, showing behind-the-scene of the menswear fashion world. It ends in 2010 when Boateng closed LFW at the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square with the biggest solo men’s fashion show ever. To celebrates his 25th anniversary in the business, 100 models took the catwalk show to the streets, to much delight of the passersby. The elegantly clad army marched from Leicester Square to Boateng’s Savile Row flagship store.
The first womenswear collection
Last year, the designer finally launched his first full womenswear collection. Joani Johnson opened Boateng’s fashion-show extravaganza at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York. The show was a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance; the intellectual and artistic boom in the African-American neighbourhood during the ‘20s.
Besides making wonderful clothes and hanging out with stars, Ozwald Boateng co-founded Made in Africa, an organization that helps bring to Africa international investments and advises on infrastructure business projects.