BAPE

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Tracing back to the early 90s in Harajuku, Japan, BAPE has now become one of the biggest brands in streetwear fashion.

Short for ‘A Bathing Ape’, BAPE was founded by Nigo in 1993. The name of this brand was drawn from his target demographic of the youth, through the Japanese phrase “a bathing ape in lukewarm water”. A reflection of youth who overindulge, and live a typically easy, comfortable, and sheltered lifestyle. The name also coincides with Nigo’s love for science-fiction, more specifically The Planet of the Apes.

However, the birth of BAPE could not have been done without SK8THING, who specialised in graphic design and had a deep interest in fashion and pop culture. After binge-watching The Planet of the Apes together, SK8THING and Nigo were set on the name ‘A Bathing Ape’, as it incorporated American pop culture into fashion, while also paying homage to his Japanese background through the common phrase. After establishing this, SK8THING then created the now well-known ape head design that is seen on many garments sold today.

Nigo’s first designs were sold in the ‘NOWHERE’ store, which was a partnership with Jun Takahashi. This store’s success is also attributed to due to the “Godfather of Harajuku”, Hiroshi Fujiwara, who had a strong influence on the Japanese streetwear culture at the time.

The broad networking and high-profile partnerships boosted NOWHERE to new levels as BAPE started to hit the streets.

It began on an ‘if you know, you know’ basis as Nigo only screen printed approximately 50 shirts a week. Giving half to fashion influencers in Tokyo and selling the remaining pieces. This further built the hype around BAPE during its beginnings as Nigo’s designs were extremely exclusive within the streetwear culture, only being sold in NOWHERE in very limited amounts, but then slowly branching out to other local boutiques and eventually, internationally.

As the popularity of the brand continued to grow, Nigo understood that the exclusivity of his products meant more desirability and hype for BAPE. The iconic BAPE motifs became the signature images for the brand, as SK8THING shortly created the camo BAPE print, which quickly became a favourite. Designs have obviously expanded for the brand, from the classic BAPE head, camo shark, ape head patterns, and more recently, the Baby Milo. Each of these designs featuring on various garments such as tees, jackets, pants, shoes, and many other pieces.

BAPE has been in collaboration with many other brands. One of the first collaborations BAPE released was with G-Shock, and only 1000 pieces were rumoured to be produced. The list of collaborations is ever-growing as the brand has collaborated with big names such as Pharrell, Kanye West, Coca-Cola, Futura, Supreme, Kid Cudi, and so on.

Nigo has created a brand so influential within the streetwear culture, starting just from his small store in Harajuku. The brand has a heavy presence in both the fashion industry and the music scene and is truly hard to miss.

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