Ozwald Boateng Q&A
Menswear designer Ozwald Boateng is known for his bespoke tailoring and craftsmanship. However what really makes him unique as a designer is his ability to innovate, modernise the traditional and add colour where least expected. His film, ‘A Man’s Story’, covers 12 years of his life – observing both his creative and personal journeys. Here he speaks about the film and his work.
WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY AS A DESIGNER?
I take something traditional, like a tailored suit, and put a modern twist on it. It’s the Savile Row concept – a great suit.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU TO STAY ON SAVILLE ROW?
Being situated on Savile Row is a fulfilment of a dream. I discovered Savile Row when I was 18 years old and I fell in love with what it represents – it is the birthplace of the suit.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
My inspiration comes from how I feel in a given moment. I have always used short film to communicate my emotion for the collections. I connect my emotion to my creativity; for instance, one autumn/winter collection was based on the Japanese appreciation of my early work.
It all comes back to the Savile Row concept; I start with a traditional base and see where I can take it.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU COULD DESIGN?
When I was 16 my father said to me that whatever comes easy in life stick to it. So when my friend asked me to help on her college fashion collection I began designing. I trusted my instincts and followed it. It is a question of whether or not you allow yourself to be guided.
DO YOU EVER FIND YOU HIT A BLOCK WHEN CREATING YOUR DESIGNS?
In the beginning when you start out it is difficult to overcome a creative block, but I have been designing a long time and it has become a system. When you become more developed and experienced you find that you become more creative, having less fear of doing things differently.
HOW DO YOU FILTER YOUR IDEAS DOWN AND DEVELOP LOTS OF IDEAS INTO ONE STRONG CONCEPT?
You have to put your ideas down and go with what feels the strongest. Edit yourself and eliminate the weaker ideas. I trust what captures my eye and interest first.
WOULD YOU EVER CONSIDER DESIGNING A DIFFUSION LINE?
Every brand has its own DNA and I have tried a diffusion line before, but it wasn’t as successful as my main line. The luxury end of the fashion industry is where I will stay.
WHAT DID YOU EXPECT FROM YOUR FILM – ‘A MAN’S STORY’?
I had no expectations of the film. I know that the film will inspire others, particularly young people. My intention was to inspire others and tell my story, that’s what I really enjoy about the process – having the ability to inspire.
WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FASHION AND FILM?
Fashion and film have a strong relationship. Designers are strong directors, as many of the components needed to create a collection or a film are very similar. Fashion and film are natural partners, which is why I have always used film since I started, with short films to accompany the collections I produce.
Now how does that go into the future? We have seen Tom Ford directing his own film and that will become a common occurrence. Many more designers will begin to cross over into film.
IN THE FILM YOU HIT A LOW POINT WHERE AMONGST OTHER THINGS GOING ON, YOUR COLLECTION IS STOLEN. HOW DID YOU MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO BOUNCE BACK FROM THAT?
The big thing was that I still believed. The very nature of being creative means that there will inevitably be struggles. You need to believe in your work – spirituality for me has always played a key role in my life.
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU COULD GIVE SOMEONE?
It’s not easy being a designer, but I would say my advice would be to believe in yourself and love what you do.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR OZWALD BOATENG?
I hope to in the future open more stores and dress a couple of movies. I also have a big interest in Africa and what I can do there, especially working on their infrastructure. Life is an experience and I am just going to go for all my dreams. Getting the balance right between my work and family life has always been important to me, and I am going to continue working on that.
Source: Questions and answers were taken from a Q&A conducted at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham on the 23rd March 2012.