In the streetwear fashion world, Nigo is an absolute legend, but outside this world, the name will not ring a bell for many. Yet the Japanese designer, entrepreneur, producer and DJ is definitely worth knowing. Not only did he establish many brands, including A Bathing Ape and Billionaire Boys Club, with which he changed streetwear fashion forever, he is also the new creative director of fashion house Kenzo.
First up, the basics. Nigo was born Tomoaki Nagao on 23 December 1970 in Maebashi, Japan. He got his nickname when he met Hiroshi Fujiwara, known as the ‘godfather of Harajuku’, with Nagao soon becoming his assistant. Nigo means ‘number two’ and refers to the external resemblance between Fujiwara and Nagao, and the fact that the latter is the former’s assistant.
Nigo studied at Bunka Fashion College, but he later said in interviews that he learned nothing during his education. During his student days, the fervent hip-hop aficionado was most often found within the depths of Tokyo nightlife rather than studying. This is where he met Fujiwara, and also Jun Takahashi, who later founded the Undercover brand.
In 1993, Nigo and Takahashi established the boutique Nowhere, selling international streetwear brands. At the same time, A Bathing Ape (nowadays often shortened to Bape, but at the time of its creation the name was actually A Bathing Ape in Lukewarm Water) was born. It was decided the brand would follow an exclusivity strategy, with Highsnobiety reporting that the brand’s production initially only meets 10 percent of demand. The tactic of scarcity ensured that this demand for A Bathing Ape products would only increase.
Those that think that Nigo is the founder of only one brand are wrong. Together with entrepreneur and artist Pharrell Williams, he founded cult brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream. He later set up the Human Made brand on his own, which now works with Adidas Originals, Kaws and Levi’s, among others.
Nigo: streetwear legend, DJ and art lover
Additionally, Nigo has more interests than just fashion. As mentioned earlier, the entrepreneur is an avid hip-hop enthusiast, Dj, producer and also owns his own record label, Bape Sounds. Not to mention, the Japanese icon is a part of hip-hop group The Teriyaki Boyz.
His interests are also rooted in the art world, with Nigo being an early fan of the now world-famous artist Kaws. In 2005, Kaws created a special painting for Nigo that was later sold in 2019 for 14.8 million dollars. He has also collaborated with artists such as Futura, Stash, Hajime Sorayama and André Saraiva.
Versatile streetwear guru Nigo appointed at Kenzo
In addition to his own ventures, Nigo does not rule out collaborations. For example, he became the creative director of Uniqlo’s UT line in 2014 and worked with Louis Vuitton in 2020, where he created a capsule collection alongside Virgil Abloh. Now, Nigo has been appointed as the new creative director of Kenzo and will present his first collection in January 2022. It heralds a new chapter for the Japanese fashion house and for Nigo. There is no doubt the fashion world will be eagerly awaiting his brand debut.
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.NL. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.