Ozwald Boateng, OBE (/ˈɒzwəld ˈboʊtɛŋ/) (born 28 February 1967) is a British fashion designer of Ghanaian descent, known for his trademark twist on classic British tailoring and bespoke style.
Boateng, whose parents emigrated from Ghana in the 1950s, was born in February 28 1967 in Muswell Hill, North London.
Boateng was inspired by the immaculate suits his father wore, and received his first suit from his mother aged eight: a double-breasted in purple mohair. At fourteen, he found a summer job sewing linings into suits.
While studying computer science at Southgate College at age 16, he was introduced to cutting and designing by his girlfriend. Using his mother's old sewing machine, he started designing and selling 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. Some of his first pieces were also sold in Academy, Newburgh Street, in about 1987. 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, the first tailor to stage a catwalk show in Paris.
Mentored by Tommy Nutter, the success of the Paris show in 1994 enabled Boateng to open his boutique on Vigo Street, the south end of Savile Row, in 1995.
Boateng's contemporary approach to menswear design helped to forge a new appreciation for Savile Row, and draw in a younger demographic. Boateng's moved fully into Savile Row in June 2002.
In 2005, Boateng was honoured with a major 20-year retrospective event at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibition recognised that he 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.
In 2008, Boateng's new flagship store and headquarters are launched at No. 30 Savile Row, on the corner of Savile Row and Clifford Street. The largest store on this world-famous Mayfair street (as of November 2019), its signage and interiors were co-designed with British-Ghanaian Architect David Adjaye. It remains the only Black-owned store on Savile Row (as of November 2019), and has since 2010 been managed by Moroccan-born Bespoke Manager, Khalid Fakhour.
In 2003, Boateng launched an original concept in fragrances for women. Bespoke comprises two different vials of fragrance within an elongated, jewel-like bottle. Developed with the whole essence of "bespoke" in mind, women have the option of wearing each fragrance separately, or adopting the "bespoke" approach by layering and mixing the two synergistic fragrances together in differing proportions, to create an infinite variety of fragrances to suit their mood and personality.
In 2007, Boateng merged the corporate headquarters of his company with his redesigned flagship store on Savile Row. Today, in addition to a bespoke service, Boateng also produces two ready-to-wear collections a year, produced at the former Chester Barrie factory in Crewe, Cheshire.
LVMH President Bernard Arnault appointed Boateng Creative Director of Menswear at French Fashion house Givenchy. In a 2019 interview with Icon Mann," Boateng reveals that back then his "challenge [had been] to reinvent the French gentleman," and that "he [had] succeeded in doing so." His first collection was shown in July 2004 in Paris, at Hotel de Ville. Boateng parted with Givenchy after the Spring 2007 collection.
In 2004, Coutts approached Boateng to design a new Super-Premium credit card. The Coutts 'World Credit Card' appears in Boateng's trademark imperial purple, designed to communicate a new modernity and supreme elegance.
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 travellers on any airline, the design increased pick rate fivefold.
Boateng was 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 September 2018 British Airways confirmed that Boateng had been chosen as the designer for its new uniform, to be launched in 2019 as part of the organisation's centenary celebrations. This appointment was a matter of controversy amongst customers of the airline and staff alike, who had come to believe that the new uniform would be designed in partnership with the iconic and historic British brand Burberry.
Film and television
Boateng has designed bespoke costumes for films including: Mo' Better Blues, Hannibal, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Tomorrow Never Dies, Sex and the City, Ugly Betty, Eastern Promises, Gangster Number One, Alfie, Assault on Precinct 13, The Matrix, Miami Vice, Oceans 13, and Rush Hour 3.
Director Varon Bonicos filmed Boateng between 1998 and 2010 for fly-on-the-wall feature documentary, A Man's Story, released in March 2012.
On 22 June 2006, the Sundance Channel and Reveille LLC released an eight-part real life documentary series called House of Boateng, tracking the journey of Boateng as he embarks on the expansion of his brand in the United States. The series was produced by Robert Redford and Ben Silverman.
As well as design, Boateng has created and directed film projects of his own.
- 1994: Debut Show – his first venture into film alongside his Paris Catwalk show, a short movie dramatising the events and struggles leading up to the show.
- 2004: Arizona – First directorial debut, a short film entitled Catching Dreams, based in the Grand Canyon area. Shown at his debut show in Milan.
- 2004: Florence – A film released at the Pitti Imagine in Florence, chronicling the past 10 years of his life.
- 2004: Givenchy – a Japanese style manga style animation at his debut show as Creative Director for Givenchy.
- 2005: China – The short movie No Boundaries is filmed in the Guilin District of China. Shown at second show for Givenchy. It premieres at the Tremblant Film Festival in 2006, Canada, and comes second in the Short Film category.
- 2009: Why Style Matters – In collaboration with BBC4, a documentary on the significance of Savile Row in the 21st century and the renewed interest in Tailoring. Features Giorgio Armani.
- 2013: Our Future Made in Africa
Divorced from his first wife Pascale, Boateng then married Azerbaijani model and former student of the London College of Fashion, Gyunel Taylor. The couple had two children, Emilia" and Oscar, before divorcing in 2009.
Boateng's mantra is "If you flow with history and don’t fight with it, eventually it becomes a dance."
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.
Boateng, alongside Kola Aluko in partnership with Atlantic Energy, founded Made in Africa Foundation, a UK non-profit organisation established to assist the development of the African continent, by providing first-stage funding for feasibility studies and business development of large-scale infrastructure projects based in the region. The foundation was established on the basis of “reframing the dialogue and perception of Africa”, with the principals signing an agreement with the African Development Bank."
Featured as a 2018 special guest panelist at the London Business School African summit, addressing business on the continent, Boateng took part initialing a massive art collaboration Remember To Rise.
- United Kingdom: Officer of the Order of the British Empire