Wall Street Journal November 6th 2012
By Christina Binkley
The advantage of filming a documentary over 12 years is that when it finally opens in theaters, the subject has had time to re-evaluate moments captured on film.
So how does menswear designer Ozwald Boateng, the subject of a “A Man’s Story,” a film by Varon Bonicos, feel about his decision to decline a job designing a storied Parisian fashion brand in 2007? Oops. Not so good, as he explained in an interview shortly before the film’s Los Angeles premiere on Friday.
This is a film that doesn’t want to be about a fashion designer. Even its name—”A Man’s Story”—is an attempt to take the focus off the obvious. The project started when Bonicos was offered a free Canon camera in exchange for filming one of Boateng’s fashion shows. The filmmaker became addicted —there is no other word for it—to Boateng’s charismatic energy, and couldn’t stop filming for years.
If you’ve seen “Unzipped,” the famous documentary about Isaac Mizrahi, you won’t discover much new about fashion in this documentary. But you may become as mesmerized by Boateng as Bonicos did. “It was only supposed to be for one fashion show,” says the British filmmaker, still seeming perplexed by his own devotion.
Boateng seems to barely resist rolling his eyes. He is dressed in a meticulous suit which looks black but turns out to have a deep blue panel curving along the shoulders where no man’s suit has curves. Boateng has won clients such as Will Smith, Laurence Fishburne and Daniel Day-Lewis with his brand of narrow lapels and elongated-torso tailoring.
Still, turning down a job offer from LVMH executive Yves Carcelle is just one of a number of regrets that comes up when Boateng reviews the many years of his life that he allowed Bonicos to film. Those years include Boateng’s rise and departure as men’s designer of Givenchy, his marriage and its failure, quite a number of moments where he fails to pay adequate attention to his children, and one particularly disastrous Paris fashion show.
But Boateng, as the film relates, is like a Weeble who won’t fall down. He is now back on Savile Row, working to expand his meticulously designed menswear around the globe—not to mention considering a women’s wear launch—even as he promotes the film.
“Fashion at this level is a tricky game,” he says with a shrug, on cue. “But that’s life. It’s a man’s story.”