Does KAWS still get the kids goin'? NIGO sure thinks so. The Human Made founder and current KENZO creative director just appointed KAWS as an advisor at Otsumo Co., Ltd., the company that operates Human Made (NIGO is CEO of Otsumo).
It's KAWS first proper return to fashion since, well, OriginalFake all those years ago.
Born in 2006 as a partnership between KAWS and Medicom Toy, OriginalFake was supremely influential on the burgeoning streetwear landscape. But that was nearly two decades ago. Can KAWS bring some of that magic to Human Made?
Human Made has been NIGO's top priority since he launched it in 2010 after selling BAPE's parent company, Nowhere, Inc., to Hong Kong-based conglomerate I.T.
Sure, NIGO has dabbled in music, museum exhibits, and various Pharrell-related endeavors since then but, until KENZO, it was all Human Made, all the time.
Now, the details of KAWS' appointment at Otsumo are unclear. All we know from NIGO's Instagram post is that he's joined Human Made's parent company as an "advisor."
According to a Japanese-language press release, KAWS' role at Otsumo will bring some sort of creative direction to Human Made but that's all I can say for sure.
NIGO has been friends with KAWS even longer than he's known Pharrell and you know this crew keeps its pals close. These dude were sitting front row at NIGO's debut KENZO show, remember.
Plus, KAWS provided art for a few Human Made collaborations over the past few years. He's also done fashion collabs that run the gamut from Dior to sacai but that's more about KAWS' graphic works being co-opted for fashion brands, rather than KAWS doing any real creative direction.
Human Made has been making moves recently. It appointed Japanese fashion lifer W. David Marx, author of Ametora, as "Outside Director" in January 2023, presumably with the expectation that he'll bring some of his heritage knowledge to Human Made's retro blue collar inclinations.
All well and good but I wonder if these shifts — KAWS especially — have anything to do with a desire to make Human Made the new hotness all over again. That is to say, Human Made isn't the streetwear smash it was when it debuted over a decade ago.
No surprise there — things happen, times change — and it could simply be that Human Made's graphic-meets-heritage-workwear aesthetic is out of step with current tastes. Perhaps it's just that Human Made simply doesn't have the embedded cultural clout of, say, BAPE, but who does? BAPE, I guess.
Now, heads still have deep respect for NIGO, Human Made turns out perfectly nice stuff, and I've enjoyed NIGO's KENZO (curious how well that sells, though) but the new generation of streetwear consumers aren't paying attention to NIGO in the same way that kids did when the Japanese designer set the pace of streetwear two decades ago.
Can KAWS change that? I doubt it but KAWS' appointment certainly won't hurt Human Made's bottom line. It all feeds into the same pool.
The people who're hyped about Human Made are the same people who get hyped about KAWS dropping new toys, Girls Don't Cry dropping more branded T-shirts, and Pharrell joining LV.
In fairness, that's a sizeable enough audience to keep Human Made in the black for a long time. Converting new fans? Not so much. But who's to say that's even Human Made's intent?