In this episode of “Interview” we meet revolutionary designer Oswald Boateng, who is in Dubai for the presentation of his latest “Black AI” collection.
euronews: Oswald, I’m glad you’re with us. Why the Unisex collection and why at this particular time?
Osvaldo Boateng: This is an interesting question. I did this show in 2019, it was a great show at the Harlem Apollo. Menswear design has been around for a long time, more than 25 years or more. My daughter always complained that I didn’t do much for her, but always for her younger brother. So I decided to create some works for women. The interesting thing during the show was that I created a collection with some women’s clothes and then I realized that my men’s clothes also look good on women. And I finally found myself in that field, designing genderless clothing.
euronews: You made a splash in London after a 12 year hiatus, right? Her collection was shown at London Fashion Week in February. Why have you disappeared all this time? What were you doing?
Osvaldo Boateng: First of all, there aren’t many menswear events in London. And I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve always had to play shows in Paris, New York or Milan. There’s also the Covid pandemic, two years have passed and I’m handcuffed at home and I’m thinking: What should I do after the pandemic is over? So I decided to do a big fashion show to celebrate the return of life and also support (black people) after the George Floyd incident. There was an incentive to connect with the black culture in and around me and I wanted to show that on set, so the show itself was a true celebration of the culture.
euronews: You said it was a celebration of the black glow and now the situation has changed and I think I have experienced racism, how do you feel and how important is it that everything has changed or changed?
Osvaldo Boateng: I can’t compare to when I started working and now that I go to these shows I’m probably the only black person in the room. That has now changed drastically. I mean the last four or five years.
I was at the Fashion Awards last year, I remember it was closing time. There were a lot of black talent, from fashion designers to photographers. This is very good.
euronews: I want to talk a little bit about the black eye group. The group is named after blacks, colors and cultures. I think it reveals artistic integrity and reflects your Ghanaian roots, but where do you draw your inspiration from?
Osvaldo Boateng: No, inspiration is universal, right? But my African roots of course are in my artwork, colors, use of textiles and most importantly I express my roots more now and I think there is a great place for expression in fashion. And in expressing my experience through my own fabrics, I think they work well with women’s clothing. I mean, if you look at some of the characters that I have in some designs, those are the Adinkra characters, which are old characters that have been around for a long time. And in a way I was playing with the size of these icons to create new types and patterns. So I also translated into a series of colors.
euronews: As I mentioned, your daughter is asking for more women’s clothing designs. Are you in business now?
Osvaldo Boateng: Yes, participate through social networks. This is a generation called “Gen Z” (Millennials), this generation controls a lot and imposes a lot, but it helps me understand that and at my last show they invited a lot of new talent from the area. Music, fashion and art. I had a very interesting experience during my group exhibition where I talked to different generations. And it was a great experience to create a group that attracted the interest of so many different people.
euronews: I was an advocate for social and economic development in Africa. Why was it important in your career?
Osvaldo Boateng: I think this is important because I am very interested in developing infrastructure in Africa. I want to see development in Africa completely paralyzed. There are many reasons for the delay in the continent’s development. Some of them can be considered political, but ultimately, the continent needs the opportunity to develop. Its population will soon reach 1.5 billion or 2 billion. And 60 percent of the world’s unused agricultural land is in Africa, so the development of Africa is very important to the world. Made in Africa was a foundation we created to promote Africa 50, the African Development Bank’s core infrastructure fund. The fund raised about $3-4 billion for African infrastructure.
euronews: You advise presidents and world leaders for change. What else needs to be done to continue and advance this effort for the better?
Osvaldo Boateng: There must be a real understanding of what the continent means from a global perspective. Food security is also a big issue. So if we can develop farmland the right way, in a sustainable way, that means a lot. I think that’s the problem. More support is needed. And ways to get there, how to meet needs and build partnerships across the continent.
euronews: You are also a big supporter of sustainability in the fashion industry. Tell me, why has sustainability become so relevant in the fashion world and how does it relate to the new collection?
Osvaldo Boateng: Yes, we do pretty much everything to order for the new team. But in terms of manpower, we all know how wasteful the fashion industry is. And it’s just to organize a business, if I want to attract him as a customer, I have to offer 10 different sizes in different colors to give him a purchase or two. If I knew from the start what I want, I wouldn’t have to do much. I can only focus on what you want. So the way of working has to change.
euronews: Your ideas at work went beyond the form of ready-made clothes (waste), right?
Osvaldo Boateng: Yes, the truth is that it goes step by step. I believe there must be a closer relationship between the designer, the factory and the customer if we want to change the industry so that we can save a lot of waste.
euronews: You were creative director at Givenchy Homme and then you became a design pioneer at Savile Row, what happens next?
Osvaldo Boateng: I think this area (Dubai) is very interesting for me, so I want to expand and explore here. I haven’t been to Dubai for a long time, about 10 years. And what I’ve heard about the development is really amazing. This is a cosmopolitan place where everyone wants to go.
I have many friends from all over the world and even from Hollywood who tell me they want to come to Dubai. it’s good. I must say: the trip to the airport was very easy. When I think of Heathrow, getting there is a challenge.
euronews: Oswald Boateng, it’s good to be back in Dubai. I want to thank you for joining us today. Thanks.