Nigo, the Japanese entrepreneur who founded the label A Bathing Ape 18 years ago and later partnered with Pharrell Williams to develop the BBC/Ice Cream brands, now offers his take on classic British tailoring. Mr Bathing Ape is a range of classic
Nigo, the Japanese entrepreneur who founded the label A Bathing Ape 18 years ago and later partnered with Pharrell Williams to develop the BBC/Ice Cream brands, now offers his take on classic British tailoring. Mr Bathing Ape is a range of classic suits with a twist, inspired by the formal Western wardrobe, manufactured entirely in Japan. Here Nigo speaks to us about his inspiration behind the project, how he can see his customers' style growing up and why he'd rather stay away from politics.
What’s the idea behind your new menswear line, Mr Bathing Ape?
I have great admiration for Vivienne Westwood and a large personal collection of her vintage designs, but the main influence for Mr Bathing Ape is the traditional Savile Row suit. On one of my regular visits to London, I got a loose style suit made at Anderson & Sheppard, which is next to Savile Row. I quite like the idea of not being strictly Savile Row. Besides that, Prince Charles and his use of the classic suit with a personal touch has always impressed me too.
How did the project evolve?
I started moving into formalwear as I regularly visited tailors and had formal suits made over the past four or five years. Inspired by the classic looks, I added some formal neckties to the regular BAPE collection as a sort of trial; they sold out on the day of release and this made me realise that many regular BAPE customers are wearing suits. As our brand is over 18 years old, our customers are getting older and maturing in their style. It’s a project for loyal customers. I am not out to make trendy suits; I'm aiming to make formal outfits based on my own experience with tailored clothing. The shape is British or traditional American, but I wanted to add our own touch, hence the scarves and ties in the BAPE camouflage design and re-arranged classic footwear similar to vintage Ralph Lauren styles.
What do you think of retro styles, generally?
When Jun [Jun Takahashi, the founder of the Undercover label] and I opened our first store NOWHERE in Harajuku, we were wearing a lot of 50s and vintage styles, so we started selling them in our store. I have just launched a new line in Japan (soon to arrive in Europe) called Human Made with Sk8thing [The original graphic designer for BAPE & Billionaire Boys Club/Ice Cream], which is heavily influenced by our vintage tastes. We try to make everything in original factories, use original sewing machines to get the right stitching. I like the idea of "the future lies in the past".
Do you see yourself as cultural ambassador between Japanese and Western tastes?
I really haven't thought of what I do in that way. Maybe it looks like it's from the West, but I am not considering how my work will be perceived by Westerners, or by anyone else for that matter. Politics in general has an incredibly unappealing image in Japan – I don't know if it's different elsewhere, perhaps you see more dynamism in Europe, but here politics just looks like inefficient bureaucracy. It doesn't appear to be a venue for ideas. I have always seen the natural place to express myself in a private enterprise, without any thoughts about marketing, though. I started out as an enthusiast and I managed to become successful by doing what I wanted to do. There's really no master plan.
Text by George Ghon