Milan — Ozwald Boateng, the veteran Savile Row tailor known for his colorful, detailed patterns and intricate designs, is about to inject his flair into the world of design. During the London Design Festival, which starts on Saturday, Poltrona Frau will present a new collaboration with the British menswear designer, marking his first-ever collection of interiors and furnishings.
Consisting of furniture, accessories, textiles and wallpaper, the new collection combines Poltrona Frau craftsmanship, Boateng culture, African aesthetics and British tailoring expertise.
One can’t help but realize that this represents a milestone not only for Boateng, who has helped pave the way for African diaspora creatives in the UK and beyond for decades, but also for the world of high-end design, which lacks diversity at the top. Attitudes.
“There is great hope for greater openness… There is an explosion of black creativity in all fields, from film to photography to art and music. (In the past) if you were born in Africa, you never had a cultural voice that resonated globally,” he said. What the designer said in an interview with WWD. As a testament to Britain’s cultural progress, Boateng celebrated a design milestone earlier this year, with the first new British Airways livery on board and ground staff in nearly 20 years. The last designer to dress the staff was Julien Macdonald.
Born to Ghanaian parents in London, Boateng began his career on Savile Row in the late 1980s and was credited with revamping the tailoring profession when he opened his first store in 1995 at the age of 28. From 2003 to 2006, he was creative director of menswear at Givenchy and was awarded an OBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005. A firm believer in the value of the African diaspora and the potential of the African continent, Boateng was also instrumental in the formation of Made in Africa. Dedicated to bringing innovative ideas to Africa while advising governments on infrastructure, innovation and development finance.
“Creativity is about creating beautiful pieces that move your soul, right? When you do that, it transcends all levels of bias, you know? And that’s basically what this collaboration shows,” he continued.
Italian companies – especially in the fashion world – have come under fire for a lack of diversity that distorts the nation’s actual cultural fabric. Specifically, Italian companies typically do not disclose employee data that could hold them accountable for not hiring enough Italian-born residents from diverse backgrounds.
For Poltrona Frau, teaming up with Boateng is as much about being open-minded as it is about incorporating his decades of experience into the team.
“As Poltrona Frau continues to expand its horizons, first in the world of art and now in the world of fashion, we welcome the mastery, talent and unique perspective of Boateng, who has beautifully blended his expertise in English tailoring and exploration of African styles with our own traditions,” said Nicola Koroupolis, CEO of Poltrona Frau. “The design is made in Italy,” he said.
This summer, US-based design brand CB2 made a statement that resonated as it boldly decided to embrace African creativity, launching a collection of works designed exclusively by Black artists and designers across the globe – from the streets of Paris and Lagos to the beaches of the Caribbean. Elsewhere, before his death, Virgil Abloh partnered with luxury furniture brand Cassina and home décor company Alessi.
The British national noted that designing the furniture was not a huge departure from designing suits, given his experience with fabrics, although walking into Poltrona Frau’s headquarters and meeting their artisans was an eye-opening experience, recalling the first time he encountered their products. A machine that determines how many times you can sit on a sofa or chair. “He blew my fuse…a crazy amount!”
The centerpiece of the collection is a contemporary re-imagining of Poltrona Frau’s iconic Chester sofa, originally designed in 1912, with wrapped and pleated armrests and a quilted finish, inspired by the Edwardian Chesterfield sofas that Poltrona founder Frau discovered during his travels to England. Today, it has been reintroduced in Boateng’s signature style, an embossed leather inspired by traditional kente, a brightly colored woven fabric typically worn for formal occasions.
Likewise, the Vanity Fair Armchair is designed in velvet fabric and is printed in its tribal pattern in several bold colors like red, yellow, purple, blue, green and black. In addition, vases, candles, table accessories and even the game of mancala, traditionally played in Africa thousands of years ago, enrich the collection with a sense of authenticity. It was also a tribute to his Ashanti roots, as his parents are from Kumasi, a city in the Ashanti region. Fabrics like kente are much more than just fabric, he explains, they have a “spiritual dimension” and are “a fabric worn by royalty” for centuries.
For a designer who has dressed major stars like Mick Jagger and Spike Lee and galvanized a generation with his unique African style of tailoring – why furniture and why now?
“It’s interesting because over the decades of my design work, it’s always been about this relationship with me and interior design and furniture because of my use of fabrics, and my design (expertise) on textiles, which is something I’ve really built my name on. And because I’m a stickler for quality, it’s always been about By finding the right partner for implementation.