February 24, 2021 at 06:00AM
To really understand Omari Douglas’s love of fashion, you need to know about that time he saw the Spice Girls in Manchester. He was meeting a friend at the concert and they knew some of the backing dancers. On the way there, he received an excited (and tearful) phone call from his friend that they might be able to attend Mel B’s birthday party. While the party never happened (it was a surprise party) Douglas can remember exactly what he was wearing—a Spice Girls merch T-shirt, a pair of bright blue trousers and a pair of fluorescent pink platforms he once wore as Baby Spice to a friend’s drag birthday party. It’s an outfit that doesn’t sound like a million miles away from something Douglas’s character, Roscoe Babatunde, in It’s a Sin would wear.
If you haven’t had the chance to catch up on what is easily 2021’s most talked-about show, It’s a Sin, created by Russell T Davis (Queer as Folk, Doctor Who, Years and Years), is a moving five-part series about a group of friends during the ‘80s AIDS epidemic. Douglas plays Roscoe, who’s flamboyant and punk-inspired. More than any other character in the show, Roscoe is arguably the most fashion conscious and his clothes not only showcase his personality but chart his development throughout the course of the episodes. And as proof of Roscoe’s immediate effect on the fashion world, at the beginning of the month, global shopping platform Lyst revealed that they saw a “60% jump in searches for acid-wash jeans whilst searches for chokers increased 32% over the past two weeks”.
How important is fashion for a character? “We don’t give enough attention to characters who are fashion conscious. It’s so important to appreciate that element,” says Douglas. “For Roscoe, it’s part of his psyche and his personality. And a lot of what he wears is part of his rebellion and his armour; it’s how he has to conquer the world.” From episode one when we met Roscoe and he’s wearing a mini skirt and crop top before leaving his family home through to his DIY punk looks and then on to his more “conservative” stylings when he’s wearing tailoring in episodes three and four, there’s no doubt that whatever Roscoe wears, he’ll always put his own spin on it. “Even at the end of episode three, where he goes and finds Stephen Fry’s character, he wears a suit but it’s a collarless shirt and a bow tie worn like a choker, so it’s still his version of tailoring,” says Douglas.
Roscoe’s attitude to dressing made Douglas feel liberated. “I think that it really brought home how important that expression is for people, because if they felt like they couldn’t do it elsewhere, they felt like they had to use their body and their image as a way to express that.”
Evidently Douglas has an innate understanding of the power of fashion and not just because he thinks it’s important on screen but for him personally as well. Over the course of the press tour he’s worn a variety of different looks, including lots of suits with sneakers (his current favourites are a pair from Bershka) which he says is pretty much the only way he likes to wear suits.
While Douglas says that he doesn’t have the “bravery to be as wild as Roscoe” and he doesn’t
“show a lot of skin”, I wonder if he thinks that Roscoe’s wardrobe has rubbed off on his own style? “This week, I’ve been wearing a lot of Carlota Barrera and the jumper I’m wearing today is actually quite Roscoe [points to his wide-knit blue tie-dye jumper] so I think it’s bleeding into my own style. I think this [press tour] is definitely helping me to push it a little.”
Clearly though, there’s always been an element of Roscoe in Douglas’s wardrobe, as he reveals he turned up to the fitting wearing something his character would wear. “I wore big hiking boots from Camper with an all black outfit and Ian [Fulcher, the costume designer] said “oh my god, Roscoe would so wear that”.
As talk turns to London Fashion Week, or the lack thereof, I ask him which British designers he loves right now, with barely a pause for breath, he reels off three: Martine Rose, Halina Edwards and Grace Wales-Bonner.
“It’s amazing to see Black female designers on the main stage. They’ve always had so much to contribute; there’s so much richness and I think about those three designers and I think ‘wow wow wow, absolutely amazing’.”
As he awaits the reception of It’s A Sin from the U.S. audiences (we’re talking the day after it’s been released on HBO Max), it’s clear that he’s excited about what’s coming next. “I feel really inspired to have been part of something like this that’s had such a profound public response. You can’t guarantee that every piece of work you do will do that. But in the telling of this story that has been so untold I just want to keep telling stories about people who are sidelined.” However and whenever he does it, I’m sure he’ll do it in style.
Next up, the biggest spring/summer 2021 fashion trends to know.