Quick Take: Gavin Patterson, President & Chief Revenue Officer, Salesforce, recently welcomed Founder & Creative Director Ozwald Boateng OBE to the Salesforce London Ohana Floor for a discussion hosted by BOLDforce UK in honor of Black History Month.
BOLDforce UK is an Equality Group — also known as an employee resource group — dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for Salesforce’s Black employees through community building, mentorship, advocacy, and engaging allies. Gavin Patterson is the Executive Sponsor of BOLDforce.
What’s the impact: The conversation focused on Ozwald Boateng’s career and transformational impact on men’s fashion for almost three decades, the importance of changing social perceptions, mentoring and inspiring others.
Driving the news: Born in London to Ghanaian parents, Ozwald Boateng pivoted early in his career from studying computing to fashion before going on to deliver many pioneering achievements in that industry. He has also served as a role model for Black and ethnic communities in Britain and internationally.
What Boateng said:
Opening his first store on Savile Row, London: “I remember coming out of a store [on Savile Row] and thinking to myself, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to actually open the store on Savile Row. I’m going to take that old skill and modernise it. In the late ‘80s Savile Row as a concept was dying out. I realized I could add something new to it and bring the whole thing back to life. Before opening the shop I realized I had to make tailoring fashionable again.”
The biggest challenge he’s faced: “The biggest challenge is always the same: do you believe in what you’re doing? And if you do, keep doing that when it gets difficult; keeping the confidence and the faith in the idea that it’s going to work… Confidence is born out of where you just have to face the music. Confidence is courage to get it wrong.”
Changing perceptions: “If I go back to the beginning of my career and always creating, London was a different place in the ‘80s. I went to school in the ‘70s – it was pretty rough being Black, that’s just a fact. When you grow up, in the backdrop, one of the things, for me, was a point to change the perception of what it is to be Black. Because it was unfortunately a stereotype. I knew by just being there [Savile Row], I could change perceptions. Being a significant driver in that, without saying I’m a Black person doing this, I knew the impact it would have on other Black people being there.”
Inspiring others: “For me it was always about first, inspiring people as a whole. And for sure, understanding being in the community. Those days, on television, I grew up with probably Trevor McDonald, Muhammad Ali, I think Michael Jackson, maybe a little bit. There were not many role models. It’s always about inspiring the individual to attain the best… You’ve got to live in the truth. Everyone can disagree with you, but usually it sits with people when you speak the truth… Nothing beats the experience of being there. I knew the historical implications of being there [Savile Row].”
Overcoming setbacks: “In the late ‘90s, banks went down in Japan. One of my partners was investing in the bank; that was 70% of my business at the time. It wasn’t in my control that the business was going to fall down; it was all over the media ‘Ozwald goes bust’. It was an incredibly challenging moment. There are a series of things that happened that allowed me to navigate it. The first thing was I confronted the problem head on… I’d say the simplest way is that things you’re most terrified of, you’ve got to look at it and usually the answer to the problem is in the problem itself.”
Lessons on managing your career: “Ultimately it comes under one thing; what inspires you? Find what you enjoy and be really good at it; enjoy and be really good at it. Really love it as opposed to skimming it and then moving on to something else… I’m a big believer that you can achieve anything you desire.”
Find out more about BOLDforce here.