Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the print edition of the 2022 spring-summer issue of Luxus+ Mag. Click here to see the full issue.
Named artistic director of Kenzo in September 2021, Nigo, whose real name is Tomoaki Nagao, is famous in the streetwear world thanks to his label A Bathing Ape (BAPE). His collections mixing Japan and street culture have been popular with the young Japanese generation, but also with American rappers like Kanye West or Pharrell Williams.
A Bathing Ape (or Bape)
After graduating from Bunka Fashion Colle- ge in 1993, Nigo founded the brand BAPE, of which he was artistic director until 2013. Focused on luxury streetwear, the brand also makes rarity its core business. In 2010 he creates the brand Human Made and joins Uniqlo as creative director of its UT collection.
Producer and DJ of the Japanese hip-hop group Teriakyi Boyz, Nigo has made a name for himself in the music industry. The group has collaborated with many artists such as Daft Punk and Mark Ronson or Jay-Z. Two tracks were even included in the soundtrack of Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.
The beginning of the years 2000 marks a turning point in the career of Nigo, when he meets Phar- rell Williams, who appreciates his creations and his state of mind. Pharrell Williams invites him in the video clip of “Frontin'” alongside Jay-Z, where he will promote BAPE in the United States for the first time. In 2003 they founded the Billionaire Boys Club brand together.
Nigo’s desire is to export his creations outside of Japan and particularly in the United States. His dream comes true thanks to the American rappers who make the success of BAPE like Lil Wayne or Asap Rocky. The designer im- presses, and manages to impose his vision of fashion internationally for a whole generation.
Nigo doesn’t hesitate to collaborate with great artists. From Suprême to Kanye West through Comme des Garçons, Nigo always brings this streetwear approach that he particularly likes. It is the consecration when he realizes a cap- sule collection with Virgil Abloh, then artistic director for men at Louis Vuitton.
A great admirer of Kenzo Takada, he and Nigo shared the same fashion school. Always on the lookout for beautiful pieces that he collects for his archives and inspired by his Japanese culture, his taste for streetwear and his sense of exclusivity, he brings renewal to the house of Kenzo and the ability to attract a younger clientele that is keen on collaborations.
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