With two vastly different collections to its name, it is easy to deduce that Tokyo James and his eponymous label is quite decided on what the label’s aesthetic or demographic is. This is unsurprising considering James’s extensive experience as an in-demand fashion stylist in the UK and Nigeria and his stints running British fashion magazine Rough UK and Nigerian menswear mag Made Men. With a wealth of experience that vast, it is almost torturous to be forced to confine one’s self to a small niche.
But that wealth of experience can be deceptive, as evinced by the label’s colossal misstep with its sophomore collection that took a classic Hausa emblem out of its traditional context and used it as an ‘edgy’ gimmick. This season though, the label steps entirely away from the vaguely familiar and crosses continents for inspiration. Particularly to the post-futurist steampunk subcultures of Harajuku district of Japan.
The Tokyo James man (and woman, the label dabbles a bit in women’s wear) this season has walked right out of one of the more deviant contemporary anime that have held our collective imaginations and dominated the world in the last two decades. Shackled into body harnesses and bedecked with reams of metallic coils, dog collars and shackled feet. Bleached brows and highlighted asymmetric bobs are the look for this brand of deviant as he struts half clad in oversize blazers with sweat shirt sleeves, Sheer vests worn over jackets with drawstring detailing and shiny textured suits with military inspired pockets. As always, the jackets are the real highlight of this collection. James seems to have a knack for crafting them, wearable but visually and conceptually interesting, structured in ways that flatter and challenge our perceptions of silhouette.
However the collection is hobbled by Tokyo James’s attempts at leisurewear. There is a particularly poignant example of this, an olive green track short and muscle vest combo emblazoned across the chest with ‘Tokyo James’ in huge white letters. This piece is so at odds with the rest of the collection that you are almost convinced an impostor somehow managed to sneak a person onto the runway. Perhaps an artistic director could have vetoed against such self sabotage.
This is Tokyo’s best collection yet, even with the missteps. It suggests that just maybe, the designer’s talents may lie in abstraction, and concept driven design rather than ‘practical’ clothing.