Black Fashion History: Ozwald Boateng
Ozwald Boateng (Born in 1967, London) is a British-Ghanaian Designer and tailor known for the transformational impact he has had on classic British Menswear fashion.
The multifaceted designer got his first summer internship, lining suits at 14. A few years later, he enrolled into a fashion design course at Southgate College after dropping out of the computer science course he was studying. The praise he was receiving for his designs encouraged him to create his first collection, working from his mother’s sewing machine. The collection was a success and he was able to sell it to the menswear fashion boutique Sprint in the 80s.
With the funds raised from the sale of his collection and after getting the opportunity to dress the likes of Mike Jagger and Spike Lee, Boateng opened his first studio on Portobello road in 1986. His signature, a classic structured suit as opposed to the loose Italian fit which was more prominent at the time, made his pieces stand out. A few years after opening his studio, he became the first tailor to have a Paris Fashion week show in 1994.
In 1995, at the age of 28, Boateng opened his first retail store on Savile Row, then in 2008, he opened a flagship store designed by David Adjaye in a second location on Savile Row. His classic cuts reimagined to accommodate modern taste combined with influences from his Ghanaian heritage, made them rather attractive to younger generations. The tailor has mastered creating the illusion of a slimmer form which constitutes the particularity of his cuts and designs.
Ozwald Boateng’s solid work and reputation led to him being appointed creative director of Givenchy in 2003 which made him the first black creative director at a French couture house. After a few collections characterised by innovative short films, he left the fashion house in 2007. Take a look at this debut short film entitled ‘Sprint’ from 1996.
The designer has made his mark in the fashion and tailoring world. Accordingly, he has earned a plethora of awards and recognitions such as the Award for Best Menswear Designer (1996) at the Trophées de la Mode in Paris; the award for Best Menswear Designer (2000) at the British Fashion Awards; an OBE (2006) by the Queen of England; the Veritas award from Harvard (2014). Additionally, he was made a young global leader (2007) by the World Economic Forum. In 2005, the Victoria & Albert Museum honoured him with a retrospective exhibition titled Fashion in Motion: Ozwald Boateng exploring the designer’s 20-year career in fashion.
The designer’s bespoke suits have appeared in a number of popular films and TV series such as Sex in the City (2003). They have been included in the men’s wardrobe of many big Hollywood productions such as Bad Boys 2 (Will Smith, 2002); Gangster No.1 (2000); Black Panther (2018); the male cast of The Matrix Reloaded (2003) wore bespoke Ozwald Boateng suits for the movie premiere.
In addition to these various cinematic collaboration, Ozwald Boateng has also collaborated with airlines. In 2018, he was assigned to design a new British Airways uniform after designing Upper Class amenity kits for Virgin Atlantic in 2004.
Although Boateng specialised in menswear for most of his career, the brand presented their first womenswear collection in 2019.
Aside from his successful fashion career, Ozwald Boateng has a strong interest in participating in the African continent’s development. Consequently, in 2006, he founded a non-profit UK organisation, Made in Africa, in partnership with Chris Cleverly and Hassan Kimbugwe to finance innovative projects by African companies and offer advisory services to governments on Infrastructure, innovation and development finance. Along with the AfDB, they launched the Africa 50 fund at the NASDAQ in 2012.
He also hosts exhibitions at his Saville Row flagship store which contains a gallery. A variety of African artists have had their work exhibited there.
We have curated a selection of few of our favourite Ozwald Boateng pieces below: