“This season, the Tokyo James man is no longer listening to noise,” says designer Tokyo James over the phone from his native Nigeria. “I want to stress that not every series is the same, and that’s on purpose,” he continued, “I like doing something different each season.”
Not unlike the guy he’s had in designing this spring
roster, James moves at his own pace. “I think it’s boring that you can predict what a brand will bring you each season, and I want you to be pleasantly surprised with each collection,” he explained. Admittedly, James’ collections often read like separate books rather than chapters in the same book, but he makes an interesting example here. Today, maintaining consistency in order to build a strong brand means that designers often make changes within established and often restrictive aesthetics. What James is doing is applying specific design elements—zippers, smocking, texture—to build a broad brand identity. Whether this works in the long run remains to be seen, but it’s a worthwhile attempt.
This time around, James is separating his menswear and womenswear collections to further divide his storytelling. “We’ve always been a menswear brand and now we’re also into womenswear,” he said. “We’re going back to our roots and focusing on what we’re more known for.” That’s not to say he’s ditching womenswear entirely. James will show womenswear in September, and he’s just giving both collections room to grow while he’s honing his point of view. “We know our men, and we still know women,” he added.
This doesn’t mean a tighter editorial for menswear. James used a variety of fabrics, including pineapple skin, crepe, jersey (bonded for stiffness and inlaid in tops and pants with exposed binding), and most notably, custom lace. “I think people are more experimental,” he says, and so are the shoelaces. What struck a chord were careless tailoring, colorful and quirky lace, and playful modular skirts that attached to trousers with separate zippers. His collection might read like different books, but James manages to make sure they are by the same author.