The man: Ozwald Boateng. The story: twelve years of his life, from near bankruptcy to working for Givenchy and gaining recognition with an OBE. A Man’s Story is the product of twelve years of footage from filmmaker Varon Bonicos; a labour of love, and most definitely obsession.
The epic project Bonicos undertook originally only started life in 1998 as a six month contract from Canon to film Ozwald Boateng, a self-taught tailor who was the youngest - and the first black - tailor on London’s street of style, Savile Row. Having achieved this impressive standing at the age of twenty-eight, we start our journey with him as he is coming to terms with the divorce of his first wife and struggling financially aged thirty-one. But how did a six month contract manage to become twelve years? After getting to know Boateng in the six month period, Bonicos decided he wanted to make a story about a man and not just a fashion designer and persisted with his documentation. What followed was a friendship between the two men and an ease with the camera that makes for a documentary with a difference as Boateng often forgets, or is unaware, that he is being filmed.
Out of twelve years worth of footage you can imagine that any story could have been picked and filled the 90 minutes dedicated to Boateng. However, the one that is chosen is Boateng’s rise through the fashion ranks as a young designer to one of Britain’s most successful and influential designers, from Savile Row to Givenchy, from dressing the stars to getting his own reality TV show in America. The main emphasis though, as the title suggests, is on the man himself. We see a driven, ambitious, talented man with a confidence and charisma to get him places. But equally a man who struggles to maintain a work/life balance with the pressures of the industry and a second wife and two children.
The long period of time that the filming took place must have seemed an impossible task to make into a film and an editor’s nightmare. However, the period of time and the obvious intimacy between filmmaker and subject provides an insight which is rarely seen in documentaries – you actually feel that you get to know his personality as well as his trade. Amongst other things, we see Boateng fall in love, become a father, struggle financially but then succeed to an even better position on Savile Row, develop artistically to become creative director of Givenchy, as well as achieve his dream of giving something back to his homeland of Ghana by doing a high profile fashion show for the 9th Annual African Union Summit with his showbiz friends to help raise awareness.
Not just for the dedicated followers of fashion, A Man’s Story is no snapshot of a life nor your standard fashion documentary, although it does maintain a dryness that is synonymous with the genre. This film is a labour of love and a rare close-up look at one man’s rise to the top and what it costs.
A Man’s Story is showing for one night (and day) only with a director and producer Q&A at Broadway from Friday 23 to Saturday 24 March.
A Man’s Story official website