Who Is Nigo?

Who Is Nigo?

Sarah Harwell

Most known for his streetwear venture A Bathing Ape, also known as Bape, the Japanese designer Tomoaki Nagao is a pioneer in blending the worlds of fashion and music, and introducing luxury clothing and self-expression to a younger generation in Japan. Now the creative director of Kenzo, Nigo’s influence on fashion has permeated worldwide.

 

Nigo's History in Fashion

 

Beginning his career at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo writing for the fashion magazine Popeye, he met Hiroshi Fujiwara, the ‘godfather’ of streetwear, who was one of the first to bring hip-hop records to Japan in the 1980s and would heavily influence Nigo’s career. Nigo would gain his nickname through Fujiwara, ‘Nigo’ translating to ‘number two’, which he was referred to as the ‘second Fujiwara’. Nigo was initially influenced by simple, ‘American casual’ and would eventually become influenced by hip-hop through Run DMC and the Beastie Boys. His very first store with Undercover’s Jun Takahashi, ‘Nowhere’ in Harajuku, sold early Undercover and Bape. A Bathing Ape began in 1993 and was named after a play on words from ‘Planet of the Apes', releasing a small selection of hoodies, T-shirts, and sneakers from Adidas and Nike. Later expanding to the popular BapeSta sneaker which was based on the silhouette of the Nike Air Force One, would gain worldwide popularity, and collaborate with the likes of Kanye West, D.C. Comics, and more. Expanding to America’s high fashion climate, the label was eventually bought by Hong Kong fashion conglomerate I.T. Ltd. Brands like Supreme would emulate Bape’s business model of producing less than their demand, creating a ‘hype’ behind their clothing. Nigo would begin his ventures outside of Bape through his small brand Human Made, work as artistic director of French luxury house Kenzo in Paris, and collaborate with Louis Vuitton with Virgil Abloh, a fashion designer who looks up to Nigo. Eventually leaving A Bathing Ape in 2013, Nigo would expand to the role of fashion designer at Uniqlo, continuing his legacy of Japanese fashion.

 

Nigo and Pharrell

 

Being integrated with hip-hop early in his career, he would meet Pharrell Williams, who would found Billionaire Boys Club and Icecream with Nigo, which would become a skate, streetwear brand that would become popular among young skaters and heavy skate culture, with the same Japanese streetwear design and ethos.

 

Nigo's History in Music and Entertainment

 

Branding out into music as a second creative platform, Nigo would collaborate with hip-hop and rap’s largest figures, releasing his debut album ‘Ape Sounds’ under London-based record label Mo Wax, and forming the rap group Teriyaki Boyz shortly after creating Billionaire Boys Club. His second album, ‘Beef or Chicken’ would feature rappers like Lil Uzi Vert, Tyler, the Creator, Pusha T, and the popular song ‘Want it Bad’ which would be made in collaboration with Kid Cudi, a longtime fan of Nigo. Other singles would be released with A$AP Rocky, Nigo worked with a variety of artists throughout his music career, such as Kaws, who was commissioned to paint the Kaws Album.

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