I work for ... Ozwald Boateng
Wednesday 01 April 1998
I've always been passionate about clothes and more interested in the creative side of life than the academic. I graduated in fashion several years ago and went on to work in Harrods' Contemporary Collections before joining customer services. I was considering a move into human resources when a friend, who was a recruitment agent, told me that Ozwald Boateng was looking for a PA. Working for a bespoke tailor sounded much more interesting than my previous plan, and I couldn't believe how lucky I was when after two interviews I got the job.
I met Ozwald at the second interview. He was very distinguished, tall and striking, serious yet relaxed. I was very struck by his purple glasses and clothes, particularly since I had decided to wear purple myself. Ozwald always wears his own suits; he's a brilliant model for his own clothing, and I don't know why he doesn't go down the catwalk himself. He keeps the tradition of bespoke tailoring alive, but by using bright colours and unusual fabrics he makes clothes that look as fabulous on a young man as on a 60-year-old. I often joke with male friends that they should take the lead of the Chelsea footballer Frank Le Boeuf, one of Ozwald's models, and invest in a suit. I love seeing men in suits - I think they look so dashing - and I also like the way some guys combine tailored trousers with something like a smart leather jacket. It can be very disillusioning to see men change back into a pair of old jeans and sad shoes; suddenly even the best-looking boys can look appalling.
My predecessor was a temp who had been here only a few days, so I was thrown in at the deep end. But because I felt so comfortable and at home in Ozwald's environment I was surprisingly unruffled. The designing goes on at the top of our building, and the tailoring near Ozwald's shop in Vigo street, but since the clothes and fabric swatches are absolutely everywhere, you get the impression of the making going on all around you.
I speak to Ozwald most days, regardless of where he is, just to check that he knows what he's booked in for. He has such a high profile, which means there are always people trying to contact him; he even got an invitation from the Queen the other day. The first month was hard because I didn't know which of the callers were important to Ozwald. I always try to find out who the callers are, and although I sometimes apologise for interrogating them I'm not too shy to call back and ask for more information. I know how to deal with people nagging me for access, because it was something I encountered at Harrods when serving celebrities such as Rod Stewart and Enya.
I can't afford to be mousy in this job, for the most important thing is to put first whatever is best for Ozwald and business. If Ozwald is rushing out through the door and asks, "who am I seeing now?" I have to be able to brief him, and I don't feel confident going home at night unless I know who Ozwald's first appointment is with.
The office is very easy-going; everyone mucks in together. I am the communicator in the office, the person who circulates around, finding out what's going on. When my colleagues want to know where Ozwald is, they come straight to me; they think that I'm psychic because I always seem to know. My job is to network with the shop, book Ozwald in for fittings with his bespoke clients, who are often celebrities, liaise with the press office and deal with some of his personal and social engagements as well as his travel. But I'm an unusual PA because I get involved with everything to do with the business - fitting cufflinks on to the model's shirts, jumping into a taxi with belts for a fashion shoot, minding the Aston Martin Ozwald drove to the James Bond premiere, even going out to Paris with clothes, mail and faxes for him. You just don't know what's going to happen next.
One of the highs was working at Ozwald's show in Paris: it was so glamorous. I had staged my own show at the end of my degree, but seeing a real catwalk show take place was a million times more exciting. I felt quite overwhelmed, and I think I lost half a stone through the thrill of it all. We were inundated with people clamouring for seats, particularly since the show was a fashionable hour late. When the doors opened there was a mad rush for seats amongst buyers and fashion editors, which was quite hard to control. I also spotted VIPs amongst them, such as Lionel Richie and Jack Doherty.
Once the show had taken place I really understood what Ozwald's business was all about, and I also felt that I could be a bit more bossy with him in future.
I like the buzz of working in fashion and all that it entails, including the social aspect, the designing, the making, the buying and the catwalk. But one of the downsides for me is that I can't wear the clothes myself ,because as yet there isn't a ready-to-wear range for women. However, I love wearing the men's bright polo-necks, as do the rest of the staff. I think we've all got Ozwald's taste because we often find that we are all wearing identical shirts - which means that at least one of us has to change, in case it appears that we are wearing a uniform.
As the company grows I would like to move into a more senior position because I feel very serious about this job; in fact I think that I've taken to it like a duck to water.
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