Clothing with a positive message. That’s what Nigerian British designer, and 2022 LVMH Prize finalist Tokyo James is out to do. It’s refreshing.
“As a brand, I’m really interested in humanity,” he said backstage ahead of his first physical runway show in Milan, supported by the Camera della Moda. “We celebrate too many of our differences which is not important. We need to look at what brings us together.”
A former stylist and editor, James launched his line in 2015, challenging stereotypes associated with African fashion through edgy tailoring with a London rebel spirit, which has made fans of music stars Burna Boy, Naira Marley and Ghetts, who recently wore a custom Tokyo James suit to the Brit Awards.
This collection was about resilience, the designer said, and the strength within all of us to weather the ups and downs. As a totem, he chose a frog. Yes, a frog.
“A frog symbolizes commonality because there’s a frog everywhere,” he laughed, explaining how the bright green, orange and blue hues were based on frogs around the world.
Spikey hair and fabric covered glasses set a punk tone for the co-ed collection, where James’ tailoring shined the most, on suits rendered in fuzzy mohair; in chartreuse silk buttoned to the side; with whimsical frog embroideries; with stripes of silver zipper pulls down the front, or ruching at the waist and back creating a slight bustle effect. Leather and mohair patchwork jeans and jean jackets also looked great.
Like frogs, football is another commonality, and through a partnership with Nike, James put soccer pleats on all his models, and upcycled several materials, using shoe laces as trim on a black strapless ruffled dress, and Nike high-top uppers as patches on a collectible-looking leather jacket.
The womenswear POV was less developed. Rather than sexy cutout dresses and metallic knits, his flair for tailoring could be pushed further on the feminine side. A gray coat dress with embroidered frogs on the bust was a strong example.