John Boyega: ‘Sustainability in fashion is key to me, but people need to be educated’

Good News Notes:

British-Nigerian actor John Boyega has a lot going on. With filming for his trio of Star Wars films over, the 29-year old actor has been confirmed to join Oscar winner Viola Davis and GQ cover star Lashana Lynch in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Woman Kin, a period film focused on the 18th-century African kingdom of Dahomey. In addition, the Peckham-born star is the lead in the upcoming war epic 892 and if rumours swirling in the Twittersphere are anything to go by, there’s a chance he’s going to replace Daniel Craig as 007.

Golden Globe Award-winning Boyega has also turned his hand to designing and has partnered with H&M to create a range of sustainable clothing, which goes on sale at the end of this month. The Edition by John Boyega collection comprises wardrobe staples – checked overcoats, oversized cardigans, roll-neck knits and chunky sneakers – cut from recycled wool, organic cotton, post-consumer waste and deadstock, and Vegea, a vegan alternative to leather. 

Ahead of the collection’s launch, GQ sat down with Boyega to find out what sustainability means to him, what goes into his everyday wardrobe and how his personal style has changed since he became an actor.

I have a diverse style. I’ve always tried to incorporate a range of colours, patterns and different fits that are referential of native wear into my wardrobe. I’ve worn everything from Louis Vuitton catwalk looks to traditional Nigerian dress. I’m still trying to work my style out, I’m incredibly curious to see where it can go and how far I can push it. 

Sustainability is key to me. People need to be educated. I had a normal upbringing in the UK and the only thing I ever really knew or heard about sustainability was linked to recycling and what the bin men were willing to take away. Fashion is a good way of being responsible for your own sustainability and carbon output, as, let’s face it, people can’t always be sustainable in every aspect of their lives. With your fashion choices you can be better more easily, as there are so many brands doing good stuff, or you can learn to reuse. I wanted that to be intrinsic to the H&M collection.

I love wearing Nigerian gowns. I wear these wildly-patterned robes in the house that I’ll never show anyone else that I rock, but they’re amazing. I love a loose fit; they’re so comfortable. I wear Nigerian dress more in public when I go to Nigeria, but here not so. I actually wanted to subtly hint at my heritage in the H&M collection through the patterns and prints.

There’s a lot of good fashion in Nigeria. When we did Pacific Rim we went on a press tour there, and designers got wind. They were sending me stuff and it opened my eyes to how much talent there is in the country.

I’ve been wearing H&M as long as I can remember. It’s long been my go-to for simple, everyday pieces. Nowhere does it better, to be honest. I like to mix those budget-friendly products with higher-end ones.

I have made some fashion mistakes. I used to wear these trousers which were slim around the ankle, and then were bigger at the thigh. My thighs are far too big for that. I looked totally ridiculous and even bigger than I was.

Acting has made me a better dresser. As you climb the acting ladder, your team expands and you have people helping you to dress. In the early days I just wore what I was told, but as I’ve learned more, I have found more of an identity and now I know what works for me. 

Jake Pentecost has excellent style. That’s my character from Pacific Rim. He had subtle African print gowns. They are banging. I was producing that movie so I had more say on his costume, so I played into my own heritage.

I’d love to play Prince Akeem Joffer. Eddie Murphy’s Coming 2 America character had an excellent wardrobe that touched on proper African style.

Fixer-upper fashion was what I grew up with. Me and my peers received the same pay, so we all could afford the same sort of thing, which wasn’t a lot. One of my close friends was really good at making the most of little, and he managed to make every outfit look new, even if it was just recycling the same shirts over and over. That inspired me to be more mindful.

Nike Air Maxes defined being cool. It meant you were in with the right crowd when I was growing up. As I got older I realised there was more out there and I am now open to anything. 

I love Daily Paper. The designers always try to send me stuff, but I secretly buy it instead. I want to support them as much as possible. 

Virgil Abloh’s work for Louis Vuitton is amazing. We collaborated together on my Critics’ Choice Awards look, which was great. He just gets it…..”

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