After debuting his collection at Arise Fashion Week, Ozwald Boateng sits down with Vogue to discuss the profound influence of African culture.
Ghanaian-British designer Ozwald Boateng has had an illustrious career in fashion and achieved many milestones including being the first black man to open up a store in Saville Row.
Having had worldwide acclaim, he has circled back to Africa, where it all began. Speaking to Vogue he said, 'I felt this was the right time to do this show in Africa, I wanted to redefine the meaning of luxury on the continent and create a new visual language in this space.'
I've been designing for a few decades, but I wanted to push that connection between my cultural roots and my design to the forefront, and I felt that there was a way that I could actually create an African aesthetic but in a very modern way.
But even more than that, I also wanted to respect some of the spiritual heritage as well, that sort of strength that you can't really explain, and that became really clear in my mind. I was always looking at different ways to develop fabrics to communicate that, so obviously I took the Kente cloth which is traditionally Ghanaian, looking at new ways to interpret Kente I used solid colours instead of the multicoloured pattern the cloth is traditionally known for.
With Africanism I wanted to put a magnifying glass on what I've been doing over the years and ramp it up 100%. The fabrication in this collection played a very important role in helping me do that. It gave me the opportunity to create some unique pieces throughout the collection.
There was a real focus on fusing traditional English fabrics such as tweed and flannels with the Kente and tribal fabric that I designed.
There’s a real opportunity for it right now. Look at fashion in 2018 and you see Africa is having an incredible influence culturally. To see black culture finally celebrated is a great thing.
There's no longer a line that says if you do this you're not a part of the world of creativity somehow, you're just doing some weird ethnic thing that doesn't relate. But now suddenly, it does relate and that's great. It means that everyone’s culture gets a voice finally.
The name ‘Africanism’ came from legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. He was talking in an interview about socialism and capitalism and at the end he said Africanism and I jumped on it. As a creative talking about change, he'd defined his language and I felt Africanism is about a creative viewpoint to all of it.
I feel that Africanism is more than just clothes, it's a way of thinking, it's a way of processing life. It could be respect for all genders, it could be respect for the environment. It could be a creative thought process.
While I was out in Lagos for Arise I went to this event, that was called homecoming which had performances from Skepta and Wizkid, a truckload of local musicians. There was this youthful energy that was so African and so content on being African.
Before, I remember being in Nigeria and there was this sort of desire to move away from that and adopt another culture. This wasn’t the case. This was about a uniqueness of self and an understanding of self, culture and value and that realisation has created an incredible confidence. 60-70% of the population of Africa is under 21. So it's all about inspiring youth.
Photography by Jamie Morgan
Styling by Artcomesfirst
Hats by Laird Hatters
Scarves by Rumisu