Founded by Tomoaki Nagao in 1993, famously known as Nigo, the Japanese brand “A Bathing Ape” or BAPE was heavily influenced by a mix of popular Japanese sub-styles specializing in lifestyle and streetwear. Tomoaki Nagao initially worked as editor and stylist for Popeye magazine after studying fashion in college. With his good friend Jun Takashi, they opened their first store, named “Nowhere”, in Ura-Harajuku. At a later time, they both decided to work on their own brands, Jun Takashi’s Undercover brand, while Nigo ventured the “A Bathing Ape” brand.
The brand’s name was heavily influenced by Nigo’s interest in the movie Planet of the Apes; on top of it was the famous Japanese saying “A Bathing Ape in Lukewarm Water”. This statement typically means a person’s complacency to overindulge in the warm bath for so long the water has become cold—a cynical reference to the laziness of the younger generation of Japanese.
To gain more popularity, Nigo voluntarily gave shirts to several famous musicians that somewhat helped in the whole marketing boost of the brand. Including Cornelius, who wore it during his performance. Over time, Nigo has been producing a maximum of 50 shirts a week, selling half while giving the other half to some friends. Interestingly, Nigo also had an opportunity to work with Pharell Williams, a co-owner and head designer of another brand Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream.
After years of operations, by February 2011, it was declared that A Bathing Ape was sold to I.T. Group–a fashion conglomerate based in Hong Kong, purchasing the brand for HKD 21,850,000 (approximately USD 2.8 million). However, Nigo became the brand’s creative director for two more years.
Heading to fame and popularity BAPE has done remarkable collaborations with famous brands, including Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Rimowa, M*A*C, Comme des Garçons, mastermind Japan, Undercover, Supreme, Stüssy, Carhartt, Casio, Adidas. Also with exceptional artists namely Biggie Smalls, Wiz Khalifa, Beastie Boys, The Weeknd, Soulja Boy, Pharrell, UNKLE, Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, Kid Cudi, Juelz Santana, Pusha T, KAWS, Kreayshawn, Linkin Park, Gary Panter, Big Sean, Josip On Deck, Lil’ Wayne, Chris Brown, Flatbush Zombies, Travis Scott, Domo Genesis, Damian Lillard, and Keith Ape. It has also featured popular characters like those from Nintendo, Hello Kitty and the Sanrio Family, SpongeBob SquarePants, several comic characters from Marvel and D.C, and a tie in fashion with Disney from its animated film Ralph Breaks the Internet.
BAPE has been slaying it for a long time up until today. It has become the definitive Japanese Streetwear brand –as Grailed defined it so. Proving BAPE as one of the most exceptional menswear brands, Takashi, Fujiwara and Pharrell can speak up for themselves. It has been the core of cultural discourse because of its astounding set of collaborations done for years running now. It has become a trendy Japanese street fashion brand that didn’t only focus on wearables but also expanded to home decors and accessories. Check out Homeless Penthouse Behind the Seams Series for more! Hit Like and Subscribe to receive notifications on our latest series and publication.