The cellular signal inside Iniye Tokyo James’s Lagos atelier isn’t so great, so he has to take his Ata Rodo bags and button-up shirts outside for a better connection. Even with the occasional moments of glitching, the conversation is one of the best of virtual Fashion Week. Rarely do I see the actual space clothing is designed in; it’s rarer still to meet the people who make it. As James stands on his porch, his colleagues act as de facto models, trying on a wrap skirt with leather trouser panels and an inset leather blazer. It’s a human moment amidst the fashionable façades our very phygital Fashion Week provides.
James’s warmth and heart translate to his garments. This season he started thinking about the Osu caste system used by the Igbo people of eastern Nigeria. Osu—or outcasts—are shunned by society and looked down on; James saw them as representative of outcasts around the world. A collection that wafts through ideas of lightness and porousness was his solution; something gentler and kinder. He made use of beautiful white and pink/red lace for collar shirts, blazers, and trousers and created similarly perforated white jackets from cord. Underneath, there are James’s first boxer shorts with a bold logo tag; there is also a cheeky graphic tee that reads “Tokyo Fucking James.” It’s delivered as a saucy message of self-preservation.
Suiting remains the core of James’s offering, and he has loosened up its form with his signature slash vents, ruched fronts, and a new suit-skirt inspired by traditional African wraps. The ease of his garments—friendly to a wide range of bodies—has made his menswear a favorite of female shoppers too. To prove their versatility, James cast a couple of women in the lookbook to wear cinched up skirts and a sequined and black pearl-beaded blazer that took his atelier four months to make. That piece is his most expensive of the season, but for a lower price point, shoppers of all strokes at Dover Street Market—where he was recently picked up and given a primo fourth floor placement—will gravitate towards tees inset with cord and lace. It might be a collection inspired