Introducing The Vault, our bi-weekly column in which we rekindle a conversation from the depths of the archives for your viewing pleasure. This time, on the occasion of Kenzo’s upcoming Fall-Winter 2022 collection in Paris, the brand’s first under the direction of its new artistic director, Nigo, we are dusting off our highly coveted Karl Lagerfeld edited the June 2005 issue, featuring the prolific BAPE founder on the cover. Inside, Nigo chats with his friend and Billionaire Boys Club co-creator Pharrell Williams about his burgeoning streetwear empire and his plans to transform the world of high fashion from the inside out. With his new role at the House, Nigo becomes the house’s first Japanese artistic director since Kenzo Takada himself stepped down in 1999 – a coat the 51-year-old designer is ready to wear: “I was born the year where Takada Kenzo-san opened her first boutique in Paris,” Nigo told Pharrell, “We both graduated from the same fashion school in Tokyo.” Her first show for Kenzo is on Sunday, January 23 at 11 a.m. in Paris Fans of the rebel head and the iconic Maison can tune in for the live stream. here. So go ahead, dive in.
A little over a dozen years ago, a young designer and stylist named Nigo opened a small clothing boutique in Tokyo and began passing on his passion for American-style urban streetwear to young people. fashion-obsessed Japanese. Today, this line, called A Bathing Ape (or BAPE, the abbreviation by which the collection is known throughout Japan), encompasses a variety of items and can be found in any of the 20 operations owned by Nigo , including a recently opened outpost in New York. SoHo of the city. Add to that a variety of other companies—from a sneaker emporium called Foot Soldiers to a restaurant called BAPE Cafe and a number of clever marketing devices that managed to reinforce the brand’s feeling of exclusivity, and it’s not hard to see why Nigo is considered in Japan as the Man with the Midas Touch. Here, Nigo chats with musical innovator and fellow hip-hop entrepreneur Pharrell Williams, with whom the designer and trendsetter recently collaborated on a pair of limited-edition sunglasses for Louis Vuitton, as well as even more. branches of his ever-expanding empire.
PHARRELL WILLIAMS: So tell me about your background.
NIGO: I have an older brother and my parents. My brother has a son now. That’s about it for my immediate family.
WILLIAMS: How was your childhood?
NIGO: Until the first year of middle school, I was first in my class. Then, during the summer of my freshman year, I started getting really into clothes, so I stopped studying and instead looked at all the Japanese fashion magazines. I started looking at Levi’s and how different eras had different styles.
WILLIAMS: How did you become so interested in fashion?
NIGO: Fashion magazines and clothes I’ve seen music people wearing. My freshman year, I got into Run-DMC, so I bought just about anything from Adidas out west, from records to apparel.
WILLIAMS: Speaking of records, how did you come to music?
NIGO: I started getting into it at the same time I started getting into fashion; I started to be interested in the Beatles from the very beginning. There was no one in college who was in the Beatles when I was in school. In Japan, some people are interested in Western things, and for others, it doesn’t seep through at all.
WILLIAMS: How did your clothing brand, A Bathing Ape, get started?
NIGO: I had a shop in Harajuku, with all these kinds of fashion items. From there, I started designing my own clothes for the store. It was in 93.
WILLIAMS: And what is the philosophy behind your clothes?
NIGO: It’s just clothes I’d like to wear, more American than European.
WILLIAMS: Well, speaking of America, you just opened your first store there, in New York’s SoHo.
NIGO: Yeah, I wasn’t sure where to put it at first, but I’m happy with SoHo.
WILLIAMS: What are the differences between Japan and the United States?
NIGO: You know, in America, nobody used to line up to buy sneakers, but now it’s starting to happen. The two cultures resemble each other in this way.
WILLIAMS: Of all the times I’ve been to Japan, what I’ve noticed is that Japan is made up of knowledgeable people who love different cultures. That’s what I found so interesting. Anyway, let’s talk about A Bathing Ape’s expansion from clothing brand to music, art, cafes and hair salon.
NIGO: I was just trying to make my life easier, like I needed to do everything I needed in my life. I needed a beauty salon, so I put one in my store.
WILLIAMS: I admire that. What are your interests outside of music and fashion?
NIGO: I’m interested in everything from art to furniture, anything that can be considered a lifestyle.
WILLIAMS: What were your inspirations growing up in Tokyo?
NIGO: It’s just clothes I’d like to wear, more American than European
WILLIAMS: What other worlds would you like to conquer?
NIGO: I would like to build a hotel and create an amusement park, like building a dentist’s office with a roller coaster above.
WILLIAMS: That would be amazing!
NIGO: I also like planes.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, we all are. [Nigo laughs] So the BBC [Billionaire Boys Club, the line designed jointly by Pharrell Williams and Nigo for Reebok], how does it differ from Bathing Ape?
NIGO: Bathing Ape is my thing, and the BBC comes from your ideas. It’s a collaboration, so I can do things that I could never do otherwise.
WILLIAMS: Wow, such a compliment.
NIGO: If I hadn’t met you, I never would have done the Ice Cream shoe company. [another joint venture between Williams and Nigo for Reebok].
WILLIAMS: It means a lot. What do you think is the secret of your success?
NIGO: The theme of my life is: “Life is a game”. I never really thought about success, what I’ve done in the past or what might happen in the future. I’m just trying to make the moment be exactly what I want it to be.
WILLIAMS: What do you want to say to bootleggers?
NIGO: That if you have enough creativity or energy to be a smuggler, why don’t you create your own thing? But it also shows my own status and the success of my line, because no one bothers to scam you unless you have succeeded.
WILLIAMS: In other words, you’re saying, “Let go of my dick!” [Nigo laughs] Anyway, man, I just want to say thank you for embracing me and helping make my dream come true. Every time we make a new shoe, shirt, or pair of jeans, it adds another chapter to my dream come true. It’s rags to riches. So, will it only be the department store here in the United States, or will you bring the gallery, the haircut and all these other things here too?
NIGO: Maybe a coffee, but that might be difficult.
WILLIAMS: Do you plan to distribute the toys you make here or even bring in the toy store?
NIGO: Well, in the summer I want to try doing something different with the toys, so maybe I won’t bring it here yet.
WILLIAMS: You have to make adult-sized furry bedroom slippers, like the ones you make for kids.
[Nigo shakes his head “no”]
WILLIAMS: I wear them! [laughs] Because, here’s the thing, I always try to find SpongeBob SquarePants slippers, and they never make them for adults. I like to wear slippers around my crib with a girl – if you put them on, it lets her know you have a fun side too. So, do you like being an anonymous figure in Japan, but with power and respect at the same time?
NIGO: I guess I never really thought about it, but it’s a position that didn’t really exist in the past.
WILLIAMS: I feel the same way. For example, before we had record sales or clothing sales, we were considered weird. There are definitely more people like us, but we are part of a group of individuals who celebrate expression, and people are starting to appreciate it now.