British Nigerian Designer Tokyo James studied Mathematics at Queen Mary University London. Shortly after, he began his career as a young fashion stylist in london working for various international publications, as well as directing digital campaigns for brands such as Brioni, Issey Miyake and Puma Black Label. With years of experience under his belt, James launched his digital monthly publication, Rough UK, an authoritative, unapologetic voice with a penchant for strong visual imagery that later expanded to Rough Italia and Rough New York after its successful run in the UK. Created for modern men who want simplicity with an edge, the Tokyo James fashion brand was born in Lagos, Nigeria after the James relocation from the UK.

You studied Mathematics at the University College of London. How has this knowledge impacted on your career as a fashion designer?

Studying Mathematics at Queen Mary University London has helped me reason a lot because, it gave me the ability to think out off the box and look at things from a different point of view.

How would you describe your personal style?

My personal style is very eclectic. I like clean lines with a bit off drama or a twist.

How has your work evolved since you began your own label?

My work has become much more relatable. Before it was very dark. Though its still slightly dark, it is much more relatable to the audience.


Why menswear?

Menswear, because there is a gap in the market for the Tokyo James man.

How is your work received locally and internationally?

It’s received quite well internationally though it’s still growing locally, with men coming round to the Tokyo James way. They are starting to see themselves and have their own point of view, and embrace differences.

What difficulties do young African designers face in trying to emerge in an increasingly dynamic global scene, and what advice would you give them?

When it comes challenges were do I start? Is it the cost of production? The lack of investment? The lack of retail stockist? Or is it the fact that there is no help from the government, or skilled labour that understands what it is to create a luxury brand? There is also the media not helping and educating the general public as they are the men between the designer and the consumers; the list is endless but things are improving. Rome wasn’t built in a day and emerging designers should understand that and be realistic to know what they are getting themselves. Fashion is one of the toughest industries to be in and one needs to be prepared for that.


How do you balance creativity with commerce?

It’s a very delicate balancing act. As much as I want to create, I always keep in mind that this is a business and I must make money. So when designing, I always divide it into two parts creating the pieces that are purely creative and doing what my heart desires and then designing the pieces that are a bit more practicable that people can relate to.

Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection?

I usually choose a word and obsess about it till I start imagining things around it.


Who is the typical Tokyo James client?

The typical Tokyo James man is one who likes simplicity, clean lines with a splash of edge and a twist, a man that’s not afraid to be an individual he is the leader of his pack he is the alpha male and he sets the trends.

What 3 pieces should every man have in his wardrobe?

One—a pair of Tokyo James classic black pants, Two—Tokyo James classic white shirt and last but not the least, a Tokyo James classic suit.

Favorite all time designer?

That would have to be Jil Sander and Brioni.

Where do you see the Tokyo James brand in the next 5 years?

We strongly hope to have a store in most parts of Africa, as well as take the brand to the world by telling the African story through fashion.

Ladun Ogidan is the Deputy Editor of Omenka Africa’s first art, business and luxury- lifestyle magazine. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication from Covenant University, Nigeria. Ogidan is also Operations Manager at the Omenka Gallery, and Chief Operating Officer at Revilo Company Limited, a leading art publishing company in Lagos. She has co-ordinated several exhibitions at home and abroad.

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