As many of you know, NIGO is stepping away from A Bathing Ape to pursue different projects, including the development of his new clothing brand–Human Made–and a retail venture called Cold Coffee. WWD Japan had the opportunity to catch up with NIGO and talk about his decision to leave the brand he founded, read an excerpt from the interview below and be sure to head on over to WWD for the entire story.
WWD: Why did you choose to leave A Bathing Ape, the very brand you started? When did you make the decision?
Nigo: It was about six months ago that I started to think about what I wanted to do next. I guess it’s just me being selfish. It has been 20 years since I founded the brand, and in another 20 years from now I will be 60. I started fumbling around for some new possibilities. What I really want to make clear is that I didn’t fall out with [I.T chief executive officer] Sham Kar Wai. Sham and I get on as more than business associates and we came to a mutual decision. It was simply that I came to the realization that Bape was no longer just my creation and I didn’t renew the contract that I signed two years ago when I sold the company.
WWD: Since I.T bought the company, the brand has changed significantly. I.T has launched a diffusion line called Aape by A Bathing Ape and there are many more products with prominent logos. Isn’t that a departure for the brand?
Nigo: I think it is pretty obvious that from the perspective of I.T, they weren’t just buying a brand, they were looking to turn a profit. But I am very grateful to them, not only for buying the company, but for listening to my input. Two years ago when I sold it, times were really tough. We were really feeling the effects of the Lehman Bros. collapse and the banks just weren’t lending. The decision to sell was to protect us, our employees and even the banks. It was the best decision for us all to make it out alive. Actually, we were having talks with a number of people at the time, not just I.T, but those all faltered leaving I.T as the only buyer. Thanks to I.T, it was like I had stepped on a land mine but, thankfully, it hadn’t gone off. After the sale, I learnt a lot from I.T, especially about how to keep costs down, which looking back on my time as manager, was the thing I needed to reevaluate the most.
WWD: Do you think that without you Bape is going to change even more significantly from now on?
Nigo: There is a hangover caused by my own time managing Bape. That without me the brand wouldn’t exist is something the people who follow in my footsteps will have to overcome. But I think that I.T is confident that it is going to continue to sell without me. Especially in Asia, Bape is Bape. There are people who are fanatical about the logo alone. Maybe it will have an effect in places in the West like New York where I have an identity as Nigo. As for Japan, I wonder? I have a feeling they will just have to push on. If something goes wrong, maybe they will call me back!