Ozwald Boateng: Tell It Like It Is

Ozwald Boateng celebrates a quarter of a century in menswear and discusses his big picture vision of a unites fashion house!

Ozwald  Boateng has something of a reputation for always, unequivocally thinking big. Whether’s dosing down Savile Row for a 1,500-strong street party to celebrate his store’s opening in 2002. enlisting 600 soldiers from the Chinese army to star in the short film No Boundaries in 2005, or hosting Reverend Jesse Jackson in Ghana for his show at the African Union Summit in 2007, can’t do’ is not in his vocabulary informs The Monarch Magazine.

So it’s little surprise that when he marked 25 years in the fashion business with his first-ever show at London Fashion Week (LFW) last September, he put on the sort of spectacle at the Odeon Leicester Square. The VIP guests were welcomed into the drama with black carpets, fragranced air, champagne, and classical music. Unusually, the show featured two seasons—Boateng’s Spnngi’summer 2016 and his autumn/winter 2016 collectcns—modeled by 100 men, the largest number ever seen on one LFW runway. Young and old, bald and dreaded, hunky and interesting, and in every creed and color, they appeared in wave after wave of brightly colored suits, equestrian tailoring, leather coats, man leggings and no little amount of swagger. Take that, fashion.

I am celebrating twenty-five years, so I wanted the experience to be exerting,‘ – Ozwald  Boateng explains. “I didn’t want to do a retrospective. Instead, I conveyed my width of experience by showing off different ways to wear my clothes. The volume was a representation of time, and you really feel the presence of 100 men.

The self-styled, self-taught bespoke couturier took his bows at the end of the show with his father in tow. which was as much of a surprise to Boateng Senior as it was to the audience. There was no way on earth he would have agreed to go on stage. He’s proud of his son but it’s just not his way. So I said, Come, I need to show you something up these stairs. “It was quite narrow so before he knew it, he found himself on the stage. He laughed about it because he understood why l did it l wanted to celebrate my father.” 

Access All Areas

This sneaky homage was, in part, spurred on by the making of Ozwald  Boateng‘s new film. A Man’s Story, a trailer for which was screened at the LFW  anniversary show. The project began in 2002 when director Varon Bionics agreed to look at the idea of making a TV documentary spanning six months. He turned on his cameras and they didn’t stop rolling until 2014. Twelve years and 420 hours of footage is epic by anyone’s standards, but this time the purpose was not to be the biggest or the best. Instead, as the film follows the trials and tribulations of Boateng’s life, it asks the philosophical question, what is it to be a man?  

It’s strange, we didn’t set out to tom for 12  years—that’s insane. But Varon and I became friends. I gave him a lot of access and he just kept filming. I didn’t question it, it was just intuitive. I was going through a lot in my life at that moment—1998 was a tough year and I became very spiritual. Luxury fashion requires that you keep a certain external aura, but internally it was ready hard and the filming helped me. A Man’s Story gets into some issues, and it wl make the viewer deal with their own issues too.

Stitching Time

The son of Ghanaian immigrants. Boateng opened his first studio in 1991 on Portobello Road in Vilest London. In 1994, at the age of 28, he became the youngest and first black talar to join the hallowed ranks of Savile Row. By 1998 he had built an international reputation for his lean silhouettes. African- influenced use of odor, and for elevating traditional tailoring into the realms of high fashion. In shoe, for making men look sharp. Yet the film begins at the point where he’s just lost a financial backer, losing his ready- to- wear business into receivership.

The production of his autumn tonier 1999 show In Paris is going disastrously wrong, and when he goes home 50 London, his reflection is stolen. He’s also getting divorced from his first wife and to top it all off, his car is plowed away by traffic wardens.

But the tide soon turns, Boateng wins Best Menswear Designer at the British Fashion Awaits in 2005. He’s appointed creative director of Givenchy Homme in 2008 and is awarded an OBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 2009. He opens his flagship store, designed by British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye, in 2010, and conquers Hollywood, dressing celebrity friends inducing Jamie Foxx. Will Smith, and Laurence Fishburne. And Ozwald  Boateng falls in love again, with Russian model Gytnel. They marry and have two children. The film ends as that relationship also falls apart.

‘When I saw it for the first time I could not speak for about a week,’ – he recalls. ‘When things happen in your life you move on, but the film took me back to all those moments in time. It was extreme. The only thing I can compare it to. I guess, is the out-of-body experience you’re meant to have when you die.

The film has its own flow, its own truth and energy, which has nothing to do with me. By the end, the point it’s making is that no one can tell you who you are—how to be a man-only you can work that out through experience.

Today Ozwald  Boateng‘s plans remain grand. It’s this quality, his confidence and get-up-and-go that drew Bonicos to him as subject matter in the first place. His biggest scheme of al is an attempt to use hs influence to push big business and governments to back bonds-funding for a high-speed railway network across Africa that would add value to African real estate, improve infrastructure, and connect the continent.

Building rail is a lot cheaper than building roads. The Chinese, Brazilians, and British have spent billions on high-speed railway networks because it’s a brilliant business solution. It’s easy to ask why spend money on high-speed railways when them are people in Africa who can’t afford to eat. but there Is intrinsic value lo the plan.”

Ozwald  Boateng’s other aims are to open retail concepts in Ghana, China, India, and the Middle East and to return to LFW in September to officially launch A Man’s Story. “I’ve been here awhile and have earned my stripes,“- he says. “The Boalerg brand has clicked, it’s matured. There have been plenty of reasons that could have ensured that I’m not here anymore, so the fact that I am still here means I’m supposed to be.”

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