(Main image is from a project called Wafrica)
When we first came across the site Gye Nyame and the work of Petra the biggest interest was not that she represented a boutique selling African fashion BUT that the store and her work are based in Japan!
Petra Laptiste is the Founder & Creative Director of Cosmos Training (GyeNyameJapan/TokyoTrinbago) who was born and raised in Montreal with a Trinidadian father and mother from Grenada. She is a Tokyo-based freelance fashion distributor/importer for a boutique called Lil Lim. She moved to Japan to broaden her cultural horizons and to travel. In 2009, she went on vacation to Ghana and fell in love with the fashion and music. She was also amazed to notice the similarities between there and the Caribbean. It made her prouder to have roots in West Africa.
When I got back I had brought back lots of fashionable hand made jewelry and I sold them at events in Tokyo and on my blog (gyenyamejapan.blogspot.com). At that point I also wanted to introduce Japanese people to Trinidad & Tobago culture. Most people here think the Caribbean is a country in Africa. Only a tiny percentage of people actually know that the Caribbean is a diverse region of small island countries.
Her other blog (tokyotrinbago.blogspot.com) has a large following in Japan.
The boutique Lil Limo is owned and managed by Atsuko Matsuhashi who has a love for Black American culture and music and her merchandise reflects a sophisticated urban aesthetic. Petra liked the style of Atsuko’s store and she asked Petra to be a buyer. Lil’limo is short for Little limousine, and bears the meaning ” a little bit of luxury and comfort “. They gather clothing, bags,accessories and shoes mainly from New York as well as from LA, Europe and Japan. It is the kind of store where woman with personality can find something special for themselves to fit their style.
I wanted to focus on African and Caribbean designers because of the one-sided image that a lot of people have about fashion from those regions. She agreed and since 2009 I’ve supplied her with clothing and jewelry from Nakimuli (US), Ituen Basi (Nigeria), The Cloth (Trinidad & Tobago), Christian Boucaud (Trinidad & Tobago), Kayobi (UK/Ghana), Mapozi Designs (Tanzania), Sweet Design Studio (UK), Suakoko Betty (US/Liberia), various handmade jewelry from Accra Art Centre and Synergy (UK).
She also uses space in Lil Limo as a showroom for buyers who visit regularly. Lil Limo’s clients are mostly Japanese women who want unique upscale “black” fashion. The boutique prides itself on stocking only a small number of pieces to retain the “specialness” of the pieces. Since her collaboration with Lil Limo, there has been an increase in Tokyo expats and international tourists to the boutique.
This isn’t here it ends as Petra has very interesting plans with her work with African fashion in Japan. She was recently chosen by PR01 (official agent for designers at rooms25 fashion trade show in 2012) and her job is to find talented designers from the African and Caribbean diaspora to exhibit at the rooms25 trade show in September 2012.
It has been my dream to bring African and Caribbean fashion to Japanese consumers and Japan’s largest planners have approached me. Planner PR01 and organizer HPF want to invite designers from the African and Caribbean Diaspora to Japan’s largest international fashion and design trade show called rooms.
rooms is the first show to kick off the season. With two shows each year (rooms 22 and rooms 23 for 2011), rooms have held 23 shows to date. All exhibitions are screened for their creativity and originality, with 300-400 brands exhibiting. rooms offers a wide range of items including womenswear, menswear, accessories, art and kidswear. rooms also dedicate a space to promoting up-and-coming designers. The show also offers exciting events such as exhibitions, fashion shows and parties. rooms continues to evolve as not only a trade event but as a venue for cultural communication.
Visitors include leading buyers from majors speciality stores and department stores in Japan, as well as buyers from the rest of Asia and Europe. A large number of media and press also visit the show. In total, rooms welcomes an estimated 8,400 buyers and 1,300 press each session.
The recent event was rooms 23 held on September 13-15, 2011 at Yoyogi National Stadium 1st Gymnasium. PR01/HPF have asked Petra to invite 8 designers to participate in the next rooms 25 event to be held in this September 2012, in Tokyo, Japan. (contact Petra directly to enquire about pricing – DEADLINE: Monday, July 9th, 2012)
Petra A. Laptiste is a Curator/Agent/Buyer for African & Caribbean Diaspora Fashion. You can read up more on her work here at http://gyenyamejapan.blogspot.
* roundtrip air and ground transportation
* business card/brochure printing
All queries and comments must be directed to Petra via Skype, email or telephone see details below. Due to language issues this method makes it much easier to communicate. As she says PR01 and HPF are also on your side and together they want Japan and the world to understand the uniqueness and wearability of African and Caribbean fashion.
Facebook: Gye Nyame
Asking her how she generally feels about African fashion internationally she tells us that
“African fashion is finally getting the respect it deserves from the international media thanks to bloggers like yourself and magazines like Arise and Canoe.” And that “Japan is starting to realize that fashion in the African diaspora can flatter Japanese women. African fashion need not be strictly relegated to Ankara textiles – which have only been promoted to Japanese as costumes – but can be sleek, haute and professional. Furthermore, I look forward to the day when Japanese women will make household names of African diaspora designers and negative stereotypes will take a backseat.”
We are excited about her work in Japan and will definitely be updating you on this show and the African designers they feature.
Author: Jacqueline Shaw