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Oswald Boateng: Profile

Having ruffled through my wardrobe this weekend I suddenly realised I could do with a new suit. I have a number of functions to attend this month and my suit collection is not what it used to be.

Swift action needed to be taken and I made my way to the House of Fraser store on Oxford Street in London on the Sunday afternoon. I was 20 minutes into wandering around the men’s suit section when I clapped eyes on my desired ensemble; an Ozwald Boateng bespoke suit!

I’ve never purchased a Boateng suit, but I was glad I did (thank god it was on sale!), The style and design was really something to admire, had me thinking style just runs through Ghanaians genes.  So happy was I with my purchase I have decided to pay homage to Mr Boateng, here is his story;

Ozwald was born in Muswell Hill, North London; his parents had emigrated from Ghana in the 1950s. His father continued his career as a teacher, while his mother who was in the fabric trade in Ghana became a seamstress in London. Boateng was inspired by the immaculate suits his father wore, and received his first suit from his mother aged 5. At fourteen, he found a summer job sewing linings into suits.

While studying computing at Southgate College aged sixteen, he was introduced to cutting and designing clothes by his girlfriend. Using his mother’s old sewing machine, he started designing and selling clothes to his fellow students, and switched to graduate in fashion and design. Boateng helped a friend to make clothes for a fashion show, and after receiving praise for his work, sold his first collection to a menswear shop in Covent Garden. This enabled him to open his first studio in Portobello Road in 1991. In 1994, Boateng staged his first catwalk presentation during Paris Fashion Week in 1994, the first tailor to stage a catwalk show in Paris.

The Paris success enabled Boateng to open his boutique on Vigo Street, the south end of Savile Row (world famous shopping street in Mayfair, London), in 1995.His ready-to-wear business went into receivership in the spring of 1998, but he saved it by entering into a deal with a Debenhams to design a moderately priced line of men’s clothing. Boateng’s contemporary approach to menswear design helped to forge a new appreciation for Savile Row, and draw in a younger demographic. Boateng moved fully into Savile Row in June 2002 with London Mayor Ken Livingstone crediting him with making a vital contribution to the promotion of creative talents in the capital.

In 2004, Boateng designed new amenity kits for Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class. Critically claimed to be the most stylish first class kits available to travelers on any airline, the design increased pick rate fivefold.

In 2005, Boateng was honoured with a major 20 year retrospective event at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibition recognized that Boateng had by combining the highest standards of execution with a fresh, vibrant design philosophy, successfully captured the imagination of both the media and the public.

2006 saw Boateng awarded an OBE, for his contributions to the tailoring industry. Boateng was later commissioned by John Agyekum Kufuor, President of the Republic of Ghana, to design and orchestrate a show at the 9th Annual African Union summit in 2007. Held in Accra, it coincided with 200 years since the cessation of the transatlantic slave trade, and 50 years of independence for Ghana.

In 2008, Boateng was appointed to the REACH committee, as part of an independent panel to identify and recruit national role models who work to help raise aspirations of black boys.

A man whose extrovert persona and flamboyant tailoring have drawn a stellar list of clients (Samuel L Jackson, Lennox Lewis & Michael Essien to name a few) and huge fan base (which now includes me). There can be no doubt that Ozwald Boateng is among British menswear’s most influential names.

Ben JK Anim-Antwi