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ith his sharp suits and chiselled good looks, tailor Ozwald Boateng is as flamboyant as the clothes he designs and as famous as the stars he dresses (Jude Law, Jamie Foxx, Will Smith and Daniel Day Lewis are all clients). He is very much the face of the brand. “A lot of designers are – I’m not alone in that,” he stresses. “But the truth is I didn’t want it to be that way. The joke of it is I’m not that flamboyant character – that’s the perception. When I started initially, I never allowed anyone to take pictures. I always made it about the clothes. So for at least seven years, a lot of people didn’t even know what I looked like. But I was doing a piece in The Face magazine and this journalist persuaded me to have my picture taken and from that moment onwards, it changed. “It’s a double-edged sword because on one hand it’s been


great but the disadvantage is it detracts from the real skill. I make my name on my cut and my attention to detail, but over the years, it has become a little bit too centred around me.” Ozwald has come a long way since he entered the fashion business all those years ago. Not only has he helped put Savile Row on the international map – his contemporary twist on classical tailoring has breathed new life into one of London’s most historic streets. “It’s changed a lot since I came here – it’s like a different universe,” he says. He is looking forward to the arrival of an Alexander McQueen

store across the road next month but – like many of his neighbours – has reservations about the proposed Abercrombie and Fitch children’s store that looks set to open at 3 Savile Row. “I’m one of those frustrated parents, I have a daughter so I’m always getting dragged into Abercrombie,” he says. “But is this right for the street? Well, that’s about management – they could have had an amazing street for men. Savile Row is one of the

most famous streets in Britain so why wouldn’t you want to celebrate and protect that? I don’t know. But I’ve been preaching that one since the day I started and the reason I made it part of my DNA. I didn’t need to be in Savile Row but I believed in it.” Having become the youngest and first black tailor to open

a store in the Savile Row area in 1998 (he was 30 at the time), he has since been creative director of menswear at Givenchy, honoured with a show at the Victoria & Albert Museum and awarded the OBE in 2006 for his services to the clothing industry. He was also voted fashion personality of the year in 2008 at the Mayfair Times Mayfair Personality of the Year Awards. It all started at the age of 16 when Ozwald’s self-taught skills led him to set up a design studio on Portobello Road in his early twenties, which drew regulars such as Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page. His career was further guided by renowned tailor Tommy Nutter. “My relationship with bespoke came about when I met him when I was 18 or 19 – he was a huge influence. The thing about him was that he was a tailor but he had style – it was fashion but he didn’t define it that way, which is why I came up with the concept of ‘bespoke couture’ because I operate like a fashion designer but with the skillset of a tailor so it’s fusing the two worlds together.” Another big influence on Ozwald’s career was Giorgio Armani. “When I was 16 and decided I wanted to be a designer, I looked at all the designers at the time and Giorgio Armani was it. Quite literally, you couldn’t find anything in menswear that didn’t have an Armani influence. He redefined what it was all about, globally. I looked at him and thought, ‘okay, so to be a great designer you’ve got to have influence. He’s famous for unstructured suits so I’m going to be famous for structured suits’. And that was it.” Men’s fashion in recent years has become big business and the good news for Ozwald is that tailoring and bespoke in particular is hugely popular. “People want exclusivity and personalised service is the key,” he says. “Quite a few of my clients use it as time for themselves because their lives are so busy. I think the whole bespoke experience has changed – it’s almost like therapy.”

When Ozwald merged his headquarters and flagship store into a funky 7,000 sq ft space in Savile Row five years ago, having been in Vigo Street for 13 years, the aim was to create a “spiritual home of luxury for men”. “I think we’ve achieved that, because of the relationship people have with the clothes,” he says. “Every time clients buy a product, there’s a story behind it. A lot of people come in and have their suit made for their wedding, which is great, but it’s also quite sensitive because

Style and substance

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