A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Ozwald Boateng: Saville Row Chic
By Tanya Serdiuk
A quiet revolution of new designers has overtaken the staid and tweedy dictatorship of London's Savile Row. At 64, thirty-six year old Ozwald Boateng literally stands head and shoulders above his competition. With close to twenty years of design experience, this brit-born Ghanaian is no stranger to vagaries of the fashion industry. Nor is he simply this years pretty face backed with honey-money.

Boateng opened his first bespoke couture Savile Row shop in 1994, making him not only the youngest proprietor, but also the first black man to open a shop there. That same year, his business had over one million dollars in sales. But in 1998, disaster struck when over four million dollars in orders from Japan and Hong Kong were cancelled. He had no choice but to declare bankruptcy. But Boateng did'nt let that financial disaster, or the turmoil of his divorce, keep him off the scene. Within six months, he had set up a new company, eliminated his outstanding debt, and was back doing business to the tune of two and a half million dollars.

Even if you havent yet heard of Boateng, you have without doubt admired his designs. Recipient of innumerable fashion awards, from the Best Male Designer at the 1996 Trophees de la Mode in Paris, to the Top Menswear Designer at the 2000 British Fashion Awards, Boateng counts among his clients such impeccable dressers as Will Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and long-time friend Laurence Fishburne, whose wedding suit was tailored by Boateng.

Remember the 2003 Oscar Awards? Winner Daniel Day-Lewis was too cool in a Boateng suit. On Fishburnes recommendation, the male cast of top-grossing Matrix Reloaded was dressed by Boateng for their United States and European premieres. And James Bond, who epitomized the je ne sais quoi that defines cinematic sartorial splendor, will, if the designer has his way, be dressed to kill in Boateng Bespoke Couture next time out.

Boateng, considered by many as the world's top suit designer, was named to 2001/2 Best Dressed list, and with good reason. Boateng has updated the stodgy tradition of the English tailored suit into a fine-tuned architecturally elegant turn-out characterized by a meticulous choice of fabrics and colors. His signature palette of bright purples, blues, greens, and of course, orange might be as subtly worked as a single color threaded through an otherwise traditional weave, or as full-stop as the purple velvet ensemble sported by Day-Lewis. Nothing goes out without his signature color mix even if it is a citrine lining in a trad glen plaid suit. Boatengs color splash seduction might break every rule in the Savile Row book of tradition, but his attention to detail, to cut, and to the sheer tactile pleasure of his fabrics, ensures that his suits remain eminently wearable from one season to the next.

Currently, his designs are available in his shop on Savile Row, at Galeries Lafayette, and Selfridges, London. Ready to wear suits begin at about $1300 (US) with bespoke suits at $3100(US).