Tokyo James

All clothing throughout by Tokyo James. Tank top and all shoes and jewelry throughout, models' own.

The 2022 LVMH Prize: Tokyo James

In an industry that often relies on the steadfast and familiar, Tokyo James's stereotype-shattering designs are a refreshing sight. Taking on distant ideas and perspectives, the resulting pieces are unwonted—a proclamation of what is possible.

The brand, founded by British-Nigerian designer Iniye Tokyo James, merges contrasting elements into something new and exciting. With an emphasis on tailoring and a penchant for atypical textures and patterns, it expands upon classic archetypes in fashion, especially when it comes to menswear. "There are two camps in fashion when it comes to menswear, and designers tend to design for either camp," James explains. "We want to design for both camps. We design for the alpha male. [Whether] you're straight, gay, trans, built, or plus-size—we design for men that are the leaders of the pack."

The 2022 LVMH Prize: Tokyo James

Gender isn't the only convention James subverts. Combining deft British tailoring with African-inspired embellishments, he not only nods to the different places he has called home—he relocated from the UK to Lagos in 2015—but attempts to merge the two worlds sartorially. By incorporating Nigerian influences and æsthetics into more Eurocentric styles, he supersedes what is typically thought of as African fashion.

Indicative of these idiosyncrasies is James's Ata Rodo bag, which launched as part of his Fall 2021 collection, "OGIDI OKUNRIN," meaning 'The Strong Man.' The scrunched leather satchel was inspired by the fiery scotch bonnet pepper—a staple ingredient in West Africa that is enjoyed all over the world. Its rouching results in its inventive shape, which mirrors the spicy fruit's curvatures. The striking bag is symbolic of James's Nigerian pride, exploring the idea of global connectivity and Africa's influence through a chic commercial accessory.

The 2022 LVMH Prize: Tokyo James

Prior to launching his namesake brand, James held a number of creative roles in fashion and editorial publishing. Growing up in Southwest London, he drew early inspiration from British magazines and later worked as a stylist and directed digital campaigns for several brands, including Brioni and Puma Black Label. He went on to found the digital platform Rough UK before moving to Lagos to join MADE Magazine as editor-in-chief. He later launched Tokyo James, which debuted in 2015 at South African Menswear Week.

James's informed, eclectic point of view and intersectional ideology have earned him an impressive following—with celebrity fans like musicians Burna Boy and Ghetts and features in publications like GQ South Africa. His success also led to a finalist position for the 2022 LVMH Prize. "It was a very surreal moment to learn I was part of the finalists," he says. "I was really excited to go on the journey and see where it takes me as a designer and Tokyo James as a brand."

The 2022 LVMH Prize: Tokyo James

While the attention that has come with the nomination affords potential for some seriously rapid growth, James remains focused on the foundations on which the brand was first built—and expanding them at pace. "We want to build slow and steady and do it the right way, and not rush in any sense. Our core ethos and principles are that we want something that is grown and built organically," he explains.

Throughout the growth of his brand, James has executed several cogent collaborations, allowing him to draw from many different points of view. His Fall 2022 ready-to-wear line, which debuted in Milan, paid homage to the unifying power of soccer in partnership with Nike. Jackets, hats, and bags were made from upcycled Nike sneakers, and many models walked down the runway in cleats. Other pieces were created from recycled denim, and some featured frog embellishments—a motif that James said represents commonality, as the animal is found everywhere around the world.

The 2022 LVMH Prize: Tokyo James

In September, he also presented a fine jewelry collection with UWR's Chuks Uzorh at Milan Fashion Week. A celebration of the designers' shared British-Nigerian heritage, the collection featured striking pieces inspired by the African rove beetle. Gems were set in recycled silver or yellow gold for the bracelets, necklaces, and rings shaped to resemble the insect’s long, armored body.

For future collections, James will continue to incorporate different perspectives into his dynamic designs, as well as experiment with different techniques and textiles. "They play a big part in what we do—fabrication is very important to us. Each fabrication tells a story or denotes an emotion," he says.

The 2022 LVMH Prize: Tokyo James

He also aims to fortify the inclusive ethos of Tokyo James, and hopes the expansion of the brand will help support the local economy in Lagos, where his atelier is located. "My mind never stops working, and [combining] these worlds excites me. There are just endless possibilities," he says. "We have new stories to tell and we want to shine a light on different ways of doing things."

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The 2022 LVMH Prize: Tokyo James
Models: Silvo Bigland at The Squad Management, Gabriel Desforges at Menace Model Management, Emily, Dee Lee and Papa at Nevs Models, and Adele Ruboneka and Seb Sander at Milk Model Management. Hair by Pål Lundhaug Berdahl. Makeup by Erin Green. Photographer's assistants: Gabriel Lloret, George Hutton, and Hanna Gabler. Stylist's assistant: Lauren Rucha. Hairstylist's assistant: Myuji Sato. Makeup artist's assistant: Hannah Busst. Casting by Jemima Magner for Ikki Casting at The Art Board. Production by Tommaso Albertini for Albertini Productions.

As a nonprofit arts and culture publication dedicated to educating, inspiring, and uplifting creatives, Cero Magazine depends on your donations to create stories like these. Please support our work here.