The History of Nigo

The History of Nigo

April 21, 2022

To celebrate one of the most iconic Japanese figures in the fashion industry, we embark on a historical journey of Nigo. From his beginnings at Popeye Magazine to his most recent album release, Nigo has always been an artistic pioneer for many within fashion, art and design.

Although he's been in the spotlight for most of his career, do you really know Nigo?

URAHARA MOVEMENT 

Influenced by Japanese fashion articles, Nigo aspired to become a fashion journalist. His first steps were to move from his hometown of Maebashi to the bright city of Tokyo to study editorial at the Bunka Fashion College. Nigo’s love for creative writing bloomed from the popular street magazine, Takarajima, which featured the column ‘Last Orgy.’ The column, then written by Kan Takagi and Hiroshi Fujiwara, glorified streetwear brands and music from Western culture. While attending college, Nigo befriended the ‘Undercover’ streetwear designer Jun Takahashi. Soon enough, Takahashi introduced his new friend to his longtime idol, Fujiwara. Continuing Takagi and Fujiwara’s work, Nigo went on to sign with Popeye Magazine to write the ‘Last Orgy 2’ column with Takahashi. With this column, Nigo was able to voice his passion and love for streetwear and hip hop culture, which eventually blossomed into him creating his own boutique.

In 1993, NOWHERE, a store created by Takahashi and Nigo opened its doors as a private retailer for streetwear goods and an exclusive retailer for ‘Undercover.’ Drawing inspiration from the popular ‘Planet of the Apes’ films, Nigo created his own brand called ‘A Bathing Ape.’ To build hype around his new brand, he started producing about thirty to fifty pieces of merchandise at a time to maintain an exclusive aesthetic. Shortly thereafter, the brand became highly popular in youth culture in Japan. Years later, the brand became international with one of the greatest streetwear staples to have ever been released. In 2002, ‘A Bathing Ape’  launched the iconic shoe model, the Bapesta. The visual appearance for the Bapesta was extremely similar to the Nike Air Force 1, but Nigo’s colorful and playful twist made it a hit amongst American artists such as Lil Wayne, Kid Cudi, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. With the help of these celebrities, the brand's growing culture was finally able to break into the US.

RISE OF THE APES

Arriving in 2005, SoHo joined Tokyo and Hong Kong as an official retail location for BAPE. With help from glorified interior designer Masamichi Katayama, the brand was able to bring its success to a competitive American streetwear market. Two years prior to the launch of his new store, Nigo and American artist, producer, and fashion mogul Pharrell Williams teamed up to create the streetwear brand ‘Billionaire Boys Club/Ice Cream’. Although two of Fashion's biggest stars owned the brand, many adored it mainly because of its refreshing take on luxury streetwear. While dominating the American street culture scene, Nigo’s obsession with collecting western art had resurfaced. He purchased famous works of pop art by KAWS, Futura, and Andy Warhol as well as rare toys from Star Wars, reportedly valued at $250,000 USD. Nigo was far more than just clothing and music, he was a collector of all sorts of lifestyle accessories, ranging from toys, furniture, automobiles, artworks, custom-made jewelry, and watches from world-renowned jeweller Jacob & Co. While BAPE was rising within New York street culture, Nigo’s personal style began to evolve to a higher state.

REBORN

Inspired by the natural evolution of an ape becoming a human, the Nigo-made brand ‘Human Made’ launched in 2010 and featured a catalogue of mature garments. Opposite the loud colors and prints of BAPE, Human Made was a lifestyle brand that consisted of workwear and other Americana pieces. While Human Made was slowly growing in popularity, Nigo’s first child BAPE was drastically going into debt. Because of the company’s inability to remain profitable, Nigo was forced to sell 90% of the company for 2.8 Million Dollars to I.T, a Hong Kong-based fashion conglomerate. Although he may have stayed as the company's creative director for a few years after the acquisition, Nigo eventually left the company entirely to focus on other ventures. 

Following a slight disappearance, after Uniqlo appointed him as the creative director for their 2014 UT line, Nigo emerged in 2020 with a highly popular collaboration with the Virgil-led Louis Vuitton. The collection featured the iconic Millionaire sunglasses which were originally designed by Pharrell and Nigo in 2007 for Marc Jacobs’ Louis Vuitton collection. Striding into 2021, Nigo was appointed as the artistic director of the French brand. His love for blue-collar fashion was once again on display with the brand featuring many Americana pieces. Soon after the release of the first collection, Nigo continued his wave by dropping his highly anticipated ‘I Know Nigo’ album which featured artists A$AP Rocky, Lil Uzi Vert, Kid Cudi and long-time friend Pharrell Williams.

What do you think is next for Nigo?

 

Art Direction: Jason Chow
Written by: KJ Mishra
Graphic Design: Kodi Josiah

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