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London Fashion Week S/S 2011 Catwalk Review: The Ozwald Boateng Extravaganza

Closing London Fashion Week, Ozwald Boateng celebrated 25 years in fashion with an all singin' all dancin' display at the Odeon, Leicester Square - with illustrations by Stéphanie Thieullent

Written by Matt Bramford

Illustration by Stéphanie Thieullent

So then – the circus was finally over! The tent was in the process of being taken down, designers were queuing for cabs with their collections in boxes, and the press made their individual ways home or to closing parties. But there was still one show to attend, which promised to be the most extravagant of them all… The final show on Wednesday and the closing spot for London Fashion Week S/S 2011 went to Mr Ozwald Boateng.

The invite won the award for the thickest, which gave details of this 25th anniversary celebration at the Leicester Square Odeon. I hadn’t had much time to think about it, but whispers were that it would be an all singing, all dancing display, and who was I to argue? I was gob-smacked when I showed up in Leicester Square to see that the cinema, famed for it’s glitzy premieres, had been covered in huge posters bearing the tailor’s name and fences had been erected to corden off fans desperate for a glimpse at a celebrity. What the hell was going on?!

The same build up ensued that I was oh-so used to by now – a heaving queue that descends into mush as soon as the gates are opened and a catfight to get in. Celebrities like Michelle Williams, Piers Morgan (!) and Joe McElderry were given the A-list treatment while we were herded in, catching a rare close-up glimpse of Amber Rose‘s enormous bosom as I shuffled past her.

Hilariously, I had been assigned the very last seat on the very last row – Z-47. Gee, thanks OB! I decided not to get too upset and took my seat, and was happy to discover a baby bottle of Moët & Chandon in the popcorn holder with one of those cheap flutes that you ram in the top so you can neck it quicker. Could be worse, I thought to myself, and I was desperate for an alcoholic drink. I admired the man who played guitar under the spotlight while I drank and thought that I could quite easily slip into a coma in this dark, relaxing atmosphere.

One hour and fifteen agonising minutes after the show was scheduled to start, the lights finally dimmed. I can only imagine that by now the guitarist had either worn down his fingers or ran out of tunes. The cinema screen came alive with a trailer for A Man’s Story; a forthcoming film about Boateng’s life. A who’s who of Hollywood including Will Smith and Laurence Fishburne waxed lyrical about the quality, craftsmanship and unique vision of Boateng and the film featured archival footage of life changing events, including the Brixton riots and the opening of Boateng’s store on Savile Row.

Ozwald Boateng was born in 1960 to Ghanian parents in North London. A combination of a laborious job in IT and his mother’s influence as a seamstress forced Boateng to reconsider his future, and he began selling his mother’s designs on Portobello Road. He quickly rose up the fashion ranks, being the first tailor to show in Paris and the first black tailor to launch on Savile Row. He’s also credited with bringing the famous sartorial street into the 21st century with his vibrant use of colour, modern cuts and Hollywood clientele.

Illustration by Stéphanie Thieullent

When the film trailer had finished, the real show began on a purpose-built runway below the cinema screen. The audience went MENTAL as one by one models appeared, strutted to the front, and then waited at the back – some in pairs, some in groups, many solo.

They just kept on coming, and at varying points when they had collected at the back, they marched forward again. It was utterly mesmerising, even from my appalling seat (which might as well have been in the Odeon Sheffield, I was so bleedin’ far away).

Illustration by Stéphanie Thieullent

The spectacle and celebration of such an event was immense, but it’s difficult to say much about the clothes when the models appear as tall as Lego men. I was hoping for a sort of retrospective of Boateng’s illustrious collections but it seemed most were very recent, and a quick Google search reveals it was the S/S 2011 collection with elements of last season’s, presumably because nobody creates a collection of 100 pieces required for a show of this scale.

Despite being miles away, I could see on the real-time projection on the cinema screen that each pair of trousers, each blazer and each different coat had been made to perfection. The fit was perfect, the cut was stylish but retained elements of sartorial old-English dress, and the collection itself was peppered with Boateng’s signature vibrant colours, inspired by his ancestry. Bright hues of purple, yellow, green and blue appeared as a welcome break from more traditionally coloured suits, and the use of aesthetic materials such as leather showed Boateng’s flair as a fashion forward thinker.

It was over in a flash. The finale featured all the models in a big love-in heap – hunky Tyrone Wood made an appearance, as did Richard Branson’s son Sam who was almost but not entirely as hunky. When they had exited the stage, Boateng appeared with his father to wild applause, whoops, cheers and the odd tear. Yes, including me. I will sob at anything – it’s all been about tits and tears this fashion week. Although, I have to say, I did once cry at DIY SOS, so my threshold is considerably low…

Congratulations, OB. Here’s to the next 25 years!

All photography by Matt Bramford


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