The Black fashion designer who became the youngest tailor on Savile Row
London is considered one of the most iconic fashion capitals in the world, with some of the biggest fashion designers hailing from the UK.
From Alexander McQueen to Stella McCartney, high end fashion is sewn into the fabric of city life.
But there are some designers who have blazed the trail and made their mark in spaces where Black people are rarely seen.
At the age of 28, a Muswell Hill born designer decided to open up shop on Vigo Street at the end of the world famous and prestigious Savile Row.
Ozwald Boateng became the youngest tailor to open a store on London’s sartorial street and went on to dress the likes of Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Paige and stars of Sex and The City to name a few.
Born to Ghanaian parents, Ozwald used his mother’s sewing machine to design his first collection.
But before pursuing fashion, the Londoner studied computing and eventually dropped out to enrol at Southgate College.
His career then took off in his 20s after successfully selling his clothing to a menswear store in Covent garden.
After dressing celebrities and musicians, Ozwald went on to open up a store on Portobello Road with his “Structured Classics”, which he created in line with classic Savile Row Tailoring.
In 1994, the Londoner achieved his first groundbreaking move by becoming the first tailor to hold a catwalk show during Paris Fashion Week as he said, “I knew that if I did a catwalk show in Paris as a tailor I could revolutionize tailoring”.
Months later, Ozwald added another first to his accolades by becoming the youngest tailor to set up shop on Vigo Street at the end of Savile Row, the epicentre of suit tailoring.
The sartorial genius incorporated colour from his Ghanaian heritage fused with the distinct British tailoring and eventually opened his Headquarters in Savile Row and a flagship store in 2007.
The accolades for his work began to flood in as the tailor received the Award for Best Menswear Designer at the Trophées de la Mode in Paris and credits in Vanity Fair for “leading the way in British men’s tailoring”.
In 2002, the fashion designer won Best Menswear Designer at the British Fashion Awards.
Ozwald’s success drew the attention of Hollywood A-listers and the tailor went on to dress the cast of films such as The Matrix Reloaded, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Black Panther and Bad Boys 2.
Away from the camera, the 54-year-old dressed stars for red carpets included the likes of Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and Daniel Day Lewis, who wore a diamond cloth suit to the Oscars worth $150,000.
In 2003, Ozwald became Creative Director of menswear for high end French Fashion House Givenchy as his influence continued to grow internationally.
Then in 2006 the world class tailor was awarded an O.B.E by the Queen and named an “Officer of the Order of the British Empire” for his services to the fashion industry.
The days of sitting at his mother’s sewing machine were now far behind him as Ozwald continued to be decorated for his great achievements.
The Londoner received an Honorary Degree (Master Of Arts) from The University of Creative Arts as well as honorary doctorate from the University of Arts London both for his contributions to the fashion industry.
But his recognition from academics wasn’t limited to the UK as the tailor was awarded Harvard University’s Veritas Award.
Not forgetting his roots, Ozwald has been involved in giving back to his origins in Ghana and the continent of Africa overall.
In 2006, the designer held a historic show at the state banquet of the 9th annual African Union summit held in Accra, Ghana to recognise 200 years since the abolition of Slavery and the country’s independence from Britain.
In 2019, during his immersive fashion show in New York, Ozwald incorporated African design to his showcase.
Till this day, the Londoner continues to be a pioneer in the fashion industry and an inspiration to Black people around the world.