From writing articles on fashion to becoming one of Nigeria’s most celebrated designers, Tokyo James is shattering societal norms with his unique style and futuristic collections. He is one of the designers selected to champion Budweiser’s game-changing campaign tagged, The King’s Stitch, targeted at showcasing and celebrating the individuality of Nigerian youth.
Find excerpt below of the interesting chat we had with him…
With a degree in Mathematics, what inspired the switch to full-time designing?
This started from my A-level days when I began to understand the power of clothes, I could say who, what and how I felt through them without having to say a word. So I started exploring the world of fashion. I was scared at first, but as time went on and hours of research I started to become more and more confident about it and started following my instincts. I created what I wanted and quickly realized that my creations attracted people. After a decade of being a creative director and stylist for so many brands, I knew it was the right time for me to make a transition into the design as it was something I always wanted to do.
Transitioning from publishing a digital magazine to becoming a fashion powerhouse, how did you know this was the next logical step for you?
The time felt right, I wanted to create cloth that had meaning to them and it was very important for me to do it from Africa to help change the perception of what was achievable from the continent, while also contributing to the overall perception of Africa in a positive light at the same time helping to improve the fashion industry and create jobs.
Clearly, your bold switch from Mathematics to fashion design resonates with the Kingʼs Stitch campaign. Would you say this is one of the reasons why you are one of the designers headlining the campaign?
I do think so because The king’s Stitch is about shining a light on the creativity of individuals doing their own thing and making things happen for them which is exactly what the Tokyo James brands stands for
How does this campaign impact you first as a person and then as a designer?
The campaign resonates with me because it celebrates the individual and the spirit of hard work. It says it’s ok not to be like everyone else and you do not have to accept the norms of the society you come from. You can chart your own course and rise above societal expectations. As a designer, it is saying to me that my dreams are valid.
How do you intend to promote the objectives of the Kingʼs Stitch campaign with your designs
Being creative is key and keeping to the Tokyo James philosophy which stands for creating and living your own individuality which is something that is at the heart of The King’s Stitch.
Your career path started overseas, how will you describe the Nigerian fashion space and how was the reception when you returned to the country?
Although my career in fashion started in Europe, London specifically, I would say I have always felt connected to Nigerian fashion, music, and culture. So it felt natural to return. I did my secondary education in Nigeria before returning to live and work in London and both places have always informed and influenced my work. I think as a designer I received a warm reception from many, particularly those on the scene who were curious and excited by my creative point of view. Obviously, I may have ruffled some feathers, but that’s what happens when you have new entrants who are also breaking territories with their work which has always been at the heart of the Tokyo James brand. I am excited to be part of a new generation of designers pushing African aesthetics forward both on the domestic and international stage.
Do you think your Nigerian background influences your collections?
Yes, it does. Nigeria is a beautiful country with such diverse people, norms, and culture. I try to make sure that every collection I put out there has some aspects of Nigeria in it.
Several designs of your’s feature bugs/insects. What is the inspiration for this?
We live in Africa where bugs/insects are intrinsically African and part of our day to day life. They are in our homes, places of work, even to the tallest skyscrapers in our city. We have an unspoken connection with them and them to us. They are nature’s most perfect creations, from their colors to their shapes and they’re existent within nature it’s just a beautiful thing.
What has been your most challenging moment as a designer and was there ever a time you felt like giving up?
Sometimes the politics in the industry can be distracting and disheartening, especially as a designer my main goal is to share my vision from season to season with my customers. I choose to focus on the positive which is growing and developing Tokyo James rather than get bogged down by anything else.
Who are your role models in this industry?
Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen and Thom Browne
Any message for the Nigerian youth?
Create and never stop creating, it is not going to be easy but be rest assured that it will be well worth it.