Ozwald Boateng is famous for injecting a bit of funk into
Savile Row, and he's also the creative director at Givenchy
menswear. This month, he makes his reality television debut on
the Sundance Channel, on "House of Boateng"
which documents his journey bringing the Boateng couture line to
the U.S. Boateng learned to sew as a teenager when he had a
summer job stitching jackets in an East London factory. At age
16, he began selling suits at Portobello Market, and soon caught
the attention of Tommy Nutter, tailor to the Beatles. In 1997,
Boateng opened his own store on Savile Row, and became the first
Savile Row tailor to show during the International Menswear
Collections in Paris. He has dressed celebrities including Mick
Jagger, David Bowie, Laurence Fishburne, and Will Smith. His
signature look is a razor-sharp cut suit with little extras, such
as a vivid lining- but he also whips up suits in tangerine
orange, deep purple and red. His suits have also been used in
James Bond films, and his latest honour is that Boateng was
awarded the Order of the British Empire earlier this year.
iTravel iShop spoke to Boateng from his suite at the Ritz-Carlton Central Park in New York, days
before his documentary was to debut.
Where do you go when you want to get away from it all?
I love the Four Seasons George V in Paris. Since I'm the creative director at Givenchy, I practically live there for one week each month.
How does travel inspire your designs?
I just designed an Upper Class pack for Virgin- that's a clear sign of how travel inspires my work. I have been flying the New York-LA route a lot and I think it would be great to redesign the airline's stewardess' uniforms. Creatively, the uniforms have a lot to be desired.
What was the hardest thing about bringing your line to the US?
Getting the timing right. My clients here in the US were always asking me when was I going to open in the US? I can't do America alone, so it was all about finding the right partner.
Are you received differently in the US than you are in the UK?
There's more excitement in the US. When they see something they like, they really say it. I was in Soho House earlier this week and got so many compliments on my jacket: “Ohhh I love your jacket, where did you get it?” There is a freedom of expression in the US.
And was the jacket one of your own?
Of course. It was Givenchy.
How would you describe your personal style?
I love tailored suits. I like to look very smart, and play with the traditional. It's all about cut and cloth. It's traditional but modern at the same time. I like to look forward, not back.
How was Savile Row changed with the new guard such as yourself moving in next to the old guard?
I've had a huge effect on Savile Row. It's the most famous street in Britain. The new need the old to survive, and the old need the new to survive. We balance each other out, without a question. I have been the pioneer of the new Savile Row and have shown the old guard how to inject some new life into it.
Who would you buy a suit from, if you couldn't buy one of your own?
That's a good question. [Pause]. I'd buy it from several people. It would definitely be British, definitely be Savile Row. I'd go to my so-called competition. I'd be buying from them all.
What are your top tips for men on how to look stylish?
You can always have fun with shirts and ties. Bone collared shirts are totally essential. Soft collared shirts just don't work. Too many pleats on a pair of trousers don't work either.
What are the key wardrobe essentials a man should have?
Cufflinks. And every man needs to own a tuxedo. If you're only going to have one, make it black but if you have more options go to Boateng and buy our purple tuxedo. It's what Jamie Foxx wore to the Oscars when he won.
What are some of your favourite places in London that you would recommend to visitors?
Portobello Road for shopping. Savile Row is absolutely essential. Come and visit me and buy a suit. Regents Park is also great, and I would also suggest Buckingham Palace. I received my honour from the Queen there.