Visions for New Africa feat. Ozwald Boateng

Ozwald Boateng is a British menswear designer of Ghanian origin who has redefined British tailor-made menswear with vibrant color combinations and modern slim silhouettes. He is a visionary who follows his passion and achieves his goals.

Ozwald Boateng. Source:  Website  of Jamie Morgan (Photographer)

Ozwald Boateng. Source: Website of Jamie Morgan (Photographer)

His achievements are many: he was the first tailor to showcase his collection at Paris Fashion Week in 1994; he was the first menswear designer with an African origin to open a boutique on Savile Row (London's prestigious district known for its traditional bespoke tailoring for men) in 1995; he was appointed Creative Director for LVMH's Givenchy brand from 2004 to 2007; and he also received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) from Queen Elizabeth II for "An Outstanding Contribution to the Clothing Industry" in 2006.

From the collection in 2013. Source:  Realtime Fix Blog .

From the collection in 2013. Source: Realtime Fix Blog.

From SS'12 Collection. Source:  Usanii Afrika

From SS'12 Collection. Source: Usanii Afrika

Having achieved a successful career in European fashion, Ozwald now has a larger vision beyond fashion and more focused on the continent of his origin, Africa. In 2011, Ozwald founded Made In Africa Foundation in collaboration with Kola Aluko, a Nigerian energy tycoon, and Atlantic Energy, a Nigerian energy company. The foundation's mission is "to fund Masterplans, Feasibility Studies and other project preparation works for successful infrastructure projects in Africa" (from the foundation's website). 

In an NPR interview, Ozwald explained his passion and rationale behind his new project: "[O]ne of the issues of unlocking those potentials (of natural resources) is no one's ready to put the first dollar into the feasibility plan or the master planning of any project, be it an urban development, road or rail. [...] [W]e believe that raising $400 million to be spent on master planning and feasibility studies for infrastructure will create $100 billion of projects across the continent. And that will effectively create about a trillion dollars of value, and that will add another 2 percent of GDP onto the continent and lift about 200 million people out of poverty."

But how did a fashion designer get into the infrastructure business? His answer is quite simple: he simply wants to open his stores on the African continent. His passion for fashion and Africa is driving him to work on much larger-scale projects, and he has the capacity and connections to make things happen.

Every designer has a creative vision. But we love that many designers with African origins have a vision beyond designs and fashion. Like Ozwald, some designers want to contribute to the economic growth of the African continent. Others want to create something that uniquely represents their cultural origins. At Maki & Mpho, we want to be a platform where people can experience a taste of new Africa, and we are committed to delivering a delightful surprise. Stay tuned!

To learn more about Ozwald's vision, check out Bloomberg Africa's documentary.

 

The Menswear MVP at Pitti Uomo

Pitti Immagine Uomo, the key international trade event showcasing men’s fashions and contemporary lifestyle trends was just held in Florence last week. Not surprisingly show participants all looked dapper and chic. But who really stood out? 

First off, let's check out a "typical look" from the scene. A basic colored jacket (lots of blues), not-so-skinny tie, flat top black shades, comfy-looking leather shoes, well-groomed beard, and dapper hairstyle were the core elements in the typical look (like these guys in the photo below). 

These elements would surely make you look stylish but you probably wouldn't look so unique or memorable. Let's take a look at more styles.

unique.jpg

This man definitely tried an alternative style with a tunic + jacket + sneaker combo. We like his innovative attitude. But did he really need a jacket? Maybe he still wanted to be a member of we-wear-jackets-to-look-stylish club. He could have ditched his jacket and instead worn a nice pair of dress shoes to look chic in his tunic. 

These styles have some unique twists: These men all wear nice hats and shorter trousers. While earthy colored styles give them effortless looks, they could have spiced up the styles a little more by adding some colors or prints.

This guy just nailed it. A dark moss green jacket, printed dot shirt, wide navy tie with a little pin, tuxedo suspenders, a bunch of bracelets, not-so-typical hairstyle and beard (plus a phone). His style is actually pretty close to the "typical look" we saw in the beginning, but the details make him unique.

We also found another of his looks from a different day.

Perfection. The contrast of yellow with different shades of blues is refreshing. Even the blue sky also became part of his style. This style has fun elements like polka dots and a rounded collar. He deserves the honor of unofficial menswear MVP at Pitto Uomo.

So here are the key takeaways to achieve a "unique" dapper style.

  • Be playful with accessories
  • Incorporate some prints and colors
  • Maybe add some uncommon styles (like round collar, trousers with different lengths, or even a tunic)
  • (Bonus!) Be on the phone when photographed. You can amplify the effortlessness of your style.

All images are from GQ.com.