In the news: Ozwald Boateng - Tailor to the stars hit by recession in the Far East

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The Independent Online
OZWALD BOATENG, the 29-year-old tailor to the worlds of politics and music, and one of Cool Britannia's sharpest exporters of suits, went into receivership last week. Despite his list of bespoke clients that includes Peter Mandelson, who attended Boateng's show in London last year, the pop stars Seal, Peter Andre, Robbie Williams, Gary Barlow and Mick Hucknall and the media celebrities Jonathan Ross and Mariella Frostrup, Boateng's business had become unstuck because of pounds 1.2m worth of cancelled orders for his off-the-peg line from the beleaguered Far East. The news has sent shock waves though the British fashion industry, which relies heavily on exports to Japan.

Boateng is one of the British fashion industry's larger than life characters; at 6ft 4in and lean as a greyhound, he is a walking advertisement for his clothes. Nobody looks better in an impeccably tailored single breasted slim-line, fuchsia pink-lined suit than Boateng himself. His trademark is his use of acid bright colours for shirts and ties.

When Boateng opened his first shop on Vigo Street off Savile Row in 1995, he was part of a group of tailors, alongside Timothy Everest, Richard James, and Mark Powell, who have given British tailoring a hip new image. His made-to- measure suits start at around the pounds 2,000 mark. Now, he is struggling to keep the shop and his bespoke service afloat whilst in search of a backer.

Boateng was one of the first tailors to stage fashion shows - first in London in 1994 and then during the international menswear shows twice a year in Paris - and to associate himself as much with the world of fashion and trends as with the more traditional world of tailoring. He became a New Labour favourite after meeting Tony Blair and Co at the No 10 get-together with key figures from the worlds of music, art and fashion, and was invited to join the Design Council's Creative Britain committee alongside the designer Paul Smith.

The self-taught tailor from north London has been perfecting his cutting skills since the age of sixteen. His increasingly high profile has won him not just a celebrity client list but the contract to provide suits for the latest Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies. He recently branched out into womenswear, providing a bespoke service for both sexes.

CAINE DISCOVERY

Ozwald Boateng lured Natasha Caine, daughter of Michael and Shakira, on to the catwalk for the first time and helped launch her career as a model. "When I first met Natasha, she was sitting down and suddenly she stood up. Her height blew me away," said Boateng. She is also one of his growing number of female clients.

ASTON MARTIN DREAMING

He is a fanatical admirer of high performance cars: "In my dreams I would like to drive an Aston Martin DB7 in silver which is a bit like a James Bond car, or for something really exceptional the Ferrari 550. But it is as expensive as it is beautiful."

LONDON ECCENTRIC

Ozwald Boateng changed the face of Savile Row: "In Savile Row I deliberately set out to attract a very different clientele, bringing in people like musicians and actors who would not have come here before. I suppose the other tailors may have thought that I was too eccentric, but we have a mutual respect for each other now and I have proved useful to them"

NO RELATION

Mr Boateng is no relation to MP Paul Boateng, although the politician was the tailor's first parliamentary client.

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