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A look at celebrated Ghanaian-British designer Ozwald Boateng’s ‘Africanism’ collection

Ozwald Boateng unveiled his new ‘Africanism’ collection at Arise Fashion Week in April 2018. “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 create an African aesthetic, but in a very modern way,” he wrote in Vogue.

Ozwald Boateng OBE is a British fashion designer of Ghanaian descent, known for his trademark twist on classic British tailoring and bespoke style. Boateng’s reputation is cemented by his constant delivery of groundbreaking but contemporary high-end men’s wear.

For his remarkable ability to merge high standards with vibrancy and innovation, he was honoured with a major 20-year retrospective event at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2005. Then, in 2007, Boateng showed his flair for original ideas by launching bespoke fragrances for women. His concept allows for the creation of an infinite variety of fragrances to suit every woman’s mood and personality.

In an essay that Boateng wrote for Vogue magazine, in which he expounds on what the ‘Africanism’ collection represents, he says: “The rebirth: African luxury redefined with every stitch, a fusion of woven heritage and modernity, rich in texture, colour and substance. A casted net that reaches far beyond fashion, the embodiment of a continent’s history, culture and style.

Empowered by ancestral stories recreated for a new Africa, a new world. The celebration of heroes, kings and queens, inspiration for the future, the next generation. A true manifestation of individuality, the enhancement of your inner self, the real you, character, passion, heart and soul, undeniable self-expression with NO COMPROMISE. AFRICANISM.”

The designer felt the collection was timely and organic, given that Africa was exerting a strong influence on the fashion industry at present.

With this collection, Boateng wanted to explore both Ghanaian culture and spiritual heritage, which is why he used Kente cloth. However, the designer opted for solid colours and not the multicoloured pattern that traditionally epitomises Kente cloth.

Read: Meet Tafadzwa Moyo: First Zimbabwean to exhibit at the International Fashion Showcase

“When I was at Givenchy, it was very important for me to find the true essence of a French man and translate that through the clothing. With Africanism, I wanted to put a magnifying glass on what I’ve been doing over the years and then 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 flannel, with the Kente and tribal fabric that I designed,” he continued in his Vogue essay.

He concluded by expounding further on why he picked the term ‘Africanism’ and how it informed his creative process: “The name ‘Africanism’ comes from legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. He was talking in an interview about socialism and capitalism and, at the end, he used the term ‘Africanism’. I jumped on it. As a creative person talking about change, he’d defined his language and I felt Africanism is about a creative viewpoint to all of it. Africanism is more than just clothes; it’s a way of thinking; 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.”

Here are some pictures from the collection:

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