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Ozward''''s suits at play 1/17/2007
The name Ozwald Boateng would not exactly ring a bell in the Ghanaian fashion circuit, save for the elite. Urban couture in Ghana has been far detached from the ‘Boateng’ phenomenon: nobody saw this ‘Black Star’ rising.

If you are familiar with the ‘Matrix Reloaded’ movie, it would delight you to know that Ozwald made clothes for the male cast. So if you liked Keanu Reeves’ outfits, this Ghanaian designer had everything to do with it. If you’ve seen ‘Hannibal’ you’d obviously notice Anthony Hopkins’s smart suits as well.

That’s Ozwald’s handiwork too. The list of films and Hollywood big wigs he’s dressed flows into a very tall order. So the current Boateng (pronounced Botang outside of Ghana) buzz running roughshod through out the international fashion elite is quite understandable.

It took a charity fashion show to bring him to his homeland and in his own words it was such a rewarding trip. “I’m approached to do a lot of things and I usually just don’t get up and do things. But I met the organizers [of Catwalk the World] and saw what they were trying to do and I felt like I wanted to help. This was a charity event to stop child hunger worldwide and it was good to be part of it”.

In 20 years Ozwald’s ‘Bespoke’ couture has redefined traditional perceptions of Savile Row -- the home of British tailoring and revolutionized classic cuts by fusing skill with contemporary aesthetics that have paid off in major ways. In the last three years he has been Givenchy’s creative director of menswear and he was recently installed as an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire). In addition, he’s made clothes for almost every Hollywood heavy weight you can think of.

“The thing with that was they put a letter in your post that says you’ve been selected for an award from the queen and you tick ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I ticked ‘yes’. Obviously, I couldn’t say no. I was quite overwhelmed by the honor and it was quite interesting why.” At the ceremony to confer the OBE on him, Ozwald made Queen Elizabeth an offer. “The whole time the queen made her statement, my mind was somewhere else. When it was my turn to respond I asked her when I was going to come around and make her a suit and she laughed because that wasn’t what she was expecting me to say.”

Ozwald has been doing short films almost as long as his designing career. Last year one of his movies was runner-up at the Montreal Film Festival and after 14 short films he is very well on his way to his first feature flick. Ozwald Boateng’s in depth work for film and television includes movies such as ‘Hannibal’, ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, ‘Alfie’, ‘Miami Vice’ and, of course, ‘Matrix’.

“I think we need to make movies about African heroes because nobody does that and I do want to make a movie about an African hero”, he says. “The funny thing however is that Jamie Foxx wants to make a movie about my life. I thought he was joking when he first mentioned it, but every time I meet him he says the same thing so I think he’s serious about it”.

It very interesting listening to Ozwald, because for one; he makes very good conversation and he is also very confident of himself and his work for that matter. Really there aren’t that many fashion designers who design fabric as well. And, the thing about his suits is not just the creative cuts. It’s a whole experience that can only be described as ‘Botang’.

The Sundance Channel recently released an eight part documentary series, ‘House of Boateng’ tracking his journey, as he embarks on the expansion of his brand into the American market. “In the UK everybody sort of wants you to struggle a bit before you get your break. But I’ve received a lot of love in the states. It’s like everybody wants you to win, and that’s like a great catalyst”. Ozwald’s story is a great one; here is another African who has revolutionized contemporary fashion and is literally changing the face of modern couture through his ‘Bespoke’ collection. After launching his women fragrance, he is going to branch into designing clothes for women.

The bottom-line remains that Ozwald is a tailor who has revolutionized tailoring in the UK and inspired the best of fashion designers around the globe with his avant-garde style. He has been able to demonstrate that traditional tailoring could be fashionable and more by creating a structure even in a ready-to-wear garment which is technically very difficult to do.

The world waits to see what hurricane Ozwald will leave in its wake. If we are to hazard a prediction, the planet should brace itself for a new phenomenon, code-named ‘Bespoke’.


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