If you flow with history and don’t fight with it, eventually it becomes a dance. This is Ozwald Boateng’s mantra. A British citizen of Ghanaian descent, he refused the dance and now has had a transformational impact on menswear fashion for almost three decades. Ozwald’s design aesthetic is rooted in Saville Row traditions but defined by international style, detail, and artistry.
His instinctive use of colour, cut and fabric fuses traditional classic British tailoring with a high-end modern design focus on the refinement of a man’s silhouette, this has brought tailoring to a whole new generation of men. Before Virgil Abloh, there was Ozwald Boateng OBE.
Although he started as a Computer Science student, he followed his passion in the end. He switched to graduate in Fashion & Design. In a time of deep racial injustice and cultural happenings between music and fashion, he wanted to show that blacks could be different. To not always show up as expected. He decided to be a designer. Specifically, bespoke tailoring because he saw it as a way to bridge the narrative.
Our success is inspired by people. He is inspired by Style. His style hero is Giorgio Armani. Armani inspired everything he does and created.
He trained himself in tailoring. From the 2010 documentary, A Man’s Story, he used brown papers to learn how to make cuts. Recognizing that the signs for his future career had been around him all along, working from his mother’s sewing machine he created his first collection. He sold it to menswear fashion store Sprint in London’s Covent Garden in the late 80s.
In a world governed by the more relaxed loose fit of Italian styled suits, Ozwald took the risk to design something else. He brought back structure into men’s suit. This, he refers to as The Structured Classics.
He fused traditional British Tailoring with modern design & aesthetics. Driven from a place that Men can look just as beautiful as women if the suit is cut well. Anyone can wear any colour, depending on the right shade of colour. This was the basis of the communication of his work.
Breaking Boundaries with The Row & Fashion Week
One of the things he does best is break boundaries. He was the youngest tailor to set up a shop in London’s infamous Saville Row. He hosted the first-ever fashion show in The Row. This didn’t come out of the blue. A decision made when he was only 18 years of age was realized in his late-20s. He was determined to make it happen.
In 1994 Ozwald Boateng became the first tailor to have a catwalk show at Paris fashion week.
Here, he took another bold step of using a promotional video for the Invites. Something that hadn’t been done before. He believed in himself. He believed that if he could do a show the way he chose to, he would change menswear globally. Whenever Innovation is good, people get attracted to it. As were they to his touch. He reinforced his vision in the 1996 Fashion Season. This show was his first move in bringing revolution to tailoring.
The Next Chapter
After Saville Row, a New Chapter started with Givenchy. He was appointed the Creative Director for menswear. He was challenged to reinvent the French gentleman, and he succeeded in doing so. He was given the freedom to work, and he succeeded.
There really is something called The Power of a Name. His name Ozwald means Divinely Powerful. He is blessed in the art of Tailoring.
He provided the wardrobe for a variety of movies. Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels which featured Jason Statham, Will Smith in Bad Boys 2, Stanford Blatch in Sex & The City, wardrobe for all the male casts in the infamous Matrix Reloaded movie and also for the recent Marvel Comic’s Blockbuster Movie, Blackpanther were all done by him.
Recognition & Jubilee
The achievements you gain in your cycle sets you up for recognition outside your cycle. He is a recipient of the British Fashion and the Best Menswear Designer Awards. In 2000, He visited Ghana. He was honoured by the Ashanti King of Ghana, Otumfouo Nana Osei Tutu II.
In 2003, He was a headline speaker at the prestigious Design Indaba in South Africa. In 2005, He celebrated 20 years at the forefront of British tailoring with an exhibition held in his honour at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. In 2006, He was named as an “Officer of the Order of the British Empire” for services to the clothing Industry in her Majesty’s New Year honours. The World Economic Forum made him a young global leader in 2007.
He was awarded a Masters of Arts by The University of Creative Arts in 2011. In 2013, Ozwald Boateng was given an honorary doctorate from the University of Arts London in recognition of his achievements and contribution to the fashion industry. He also has the prestigious Harvard University Veritas Award for his pioneering career achievements in the fashion industry and for being an outstanding catalyst for global socio-economic development, particularly throughout the continent of Africa.
The African Wakanda Vision
Unlike many other people of African descent outside Africa, He has an eye for the betterment of Africa.
El Glaoui is to art, Ozwald Boateng is to fashion in the African Creative Industry. He introduced Made in Africa. Started, to reframe the dialogue and perception of Africa. Now, the organization innovates by exposing African enterprises to external markets.
Also, marketing the concept of Infrastructure across Africa. He is a firm believer in the greatness Africa can achieve – The Wakanda Vision. He wants to bridge the gap of development to Africa. He now realizes that there is an opportunity in every area to improve, and that is great because we are now in a place to decide what it is going to be.
He has been able to revolutionize Tailoring. Only time will tell if his innovative ideas can help revolutionize Africa too.
Championing Ozwald Boateng’s mantra, do you choose to fight or do the dance with History? Dancing helps you create nothing but the wrong cycle. To fight is the only path to a better life.