NIGO - A ROLE MODEL
As a small star in this universe that we call Fashion, I have dreams of starting my own label with role models like Pharrell Williams, Virgil Abloh, Kid Cudi and other streetwear enthusiasts who I follow on the internet I'm always inspired. Nigo, Tomoaki Nagao, was no different than myself; heavy into hip-hop and he dressed like his role models: Public Enemy, and the Beastie Boys. He saw things in fashion he wanted to reinvent and create under his own image. Nigo attended Bunka Fashion College; there he met two of his close friends, Jun Takahashi & Hiroshima Fujiwara. Together they created a small fashion boutique in Japan. With a close friend to help rocket his vision, Sk8thing (Lead Designer), A Bathing Ape in Lukewarm Water was born in 1993.
Their brand, widely known now as BAPE, began with heavy duck camo, creative graphics, logo-heavy t-shirts, and eventually the creation of The Bapesta; a shoe created with a strong Nike Air Force-1 influence. Products were purposely created scarcely, which built hype and desire; only those with the right connections could get their hands on it. In 1998, as the brand got bigger, BAPE was being sold in about 40 stores around Japan. With celebrities such as Pharrell Williams, Kanye West & Lil Wayne dripped in the exclusive brand they began to set the scene in the United States.
Streetwear; rebellious, reckless, & untamed, at the time, did not have nearly as much respect as it does currently. Supreme started in '94, Stussy 80’, Alife 95’ & Undercover in 93’. High fashion brands wouldn't recognize the impact that these brands had on the culture. The way they empowered and represented voices that weren’t heard by the luxury brands. For example: Skate culture only involved those who were skateboarders; those not a part of that culture can't embrace the style within that culture. That boxy and oversized T-shirt with flared and wide pants style was an aesthetic acquired by those who would seek it out. BAPE was just the beginning of something greater. With it, Nigo, sold an image and cultivated relationships that brought two different worlds to the same map.
Looking at how Nigo accomplished his dream of building the BAPE empire is a huge motivation for starting my own brand. Growing up I've always appreciated style and design. It never really occurred to me that I should pay closer attention to the person behind these creations. Mostly, I discovered that with myself and my peers we are not much different. The music we listened to, the clothes we wear, and that unaddressed competition for "Who’s cooler than who?" all existed. That was the beginning. Now as I aspire to be the man setting the scene; I watch as younger brands learn from legends like Nigo. To name a few cactusplantfleamarket produces roughly 1-3 items per season (if it isn’t on a special occasion), Virgil Abloh’s exclusive Nike collaboration was first seen on his circle of friends before public release, (Luka Sabbat & Ian Connor) & Vlone on the ASAP Mob. Luxury brands have now come to a realization that seeking out trending streetwear brands for collaborations is beneficial for both parties. For example Vetements and Manolo Blahnik & Levi’s Made & Crafted and Off-White, Vlone and Off-White, with one of the hugest lately being Supreme and Louis Vuitton.
Today, Nigo focuses his talent on Human Made, a brand that is influenced by "vintage military-wear". Nigo’s ambition contributed to major breakthroughs in fashion and nurtured some of us into the creatives that we are now.
Inspiration is the gift that keeps on giving.