BAPE: 5 primates of the brand that defined Streetwear.


'A Bathing Ape in Lukewarm Water' is used to describe someone who stays in a situation for a long time, out of inertia, until the water becomes completely cold. A sarcastic reference to the same hyper-consumeristic youth that would later form the hard core of BAPE, almost as an irony of fate.

A Bathing Ape 28th Anniversary: we celebrate the legendary brand with some special features.

“The Monkey thinks, the Monkey does” it is the case to say, when it comes to A Bathing Ape.

In 28 years, the mythical BAPE monkey – born in Shibuya in 1993 by the creative genius Nigo – has thought and done so many things that three editorials would not be enough to recount them all.

Instead, we prefer to focus on a few tidbits – that you may not yet know – about the lifestyle brand and the creative genius behind it, which gave birth to authentic Japanese streetwear.

1) BAPE was a Pioneer of Streetwear.

BAPE‘s roots go back to Ura-Harajuku in the early 90s, which together with Undercover, Fragment, Neighborhood, Hysteric Glamour and Sk8thing contributed to the birth of the Japanese Streetwear scene.

After a few years as a stylist for Popeye, Nigo opened his own shop “Nowhere” with Jun Takahashi: in one of the shop’s rooms, he made graphic prints on T-Shirts.

The mythical logo draws inspiration from the American cult film ‘Planet of the Apes’ from 1968, but combined with Japanese culture with the idiom ‘A Bathing Ape’ or ‘A monkey bathing in lukewarm water’.

The expression is used to describe someone who lies in a situation for a long time, out of inertia, until the water becomes completely cold.

A sarcastic reference to the same hyper-consumerist youth that would later form the hard core of his brand, almost as an irony of fate.

2) It gave rise to Hypebeast culture

The fundamental reasons that generated BAPE’s Hype start with a financial and organisational reason. Nigo started his business with a limited budget, resulting in a small production of about 50 tees per week.

The designer also does not like to imagine BAPE being worn by everyone: in his idea, the brand should not distort its ‘underground’ nature.

In 1998, BAPE was resold in around 40 outlets across Japan, and it was at this point that Nigo decided to cancel all orders from his retailers, also cancelling all wholesale operations and concentrating the distribution of the brand exclusively in his head office in Tokyo.

This move really pays off, generating a ‘gold rush’ of any A Bathing Ape garment. Sales surpass historical levels and the main Streetwear formula of hype, sophistication and scarcity is born.

Everything we love and hate about Streetwear and the Hypebeast.

3) It was the first Streetwear brand worn by a Rapper.

In 1996, Notorious B.I.G had a photo shoot with the legendary Shawn Mortensen. During the shoot, Biggie was impressed by Shawn’s jacket, a BAPE with camo pattern, and asked if he could wear it for a shot.

When he tried to put it on, Shawn’s jacket was not big enough for Biggie Small, so he opted to put it over his shoulders; after the shoot, Biggie asked the photographer who designed it, because he wanted one for himself.

After obtaining BAPE‘s contact, Notorious contacted Nigo: he was so happy to have him as a client that he decided to create pieces exclusively for him, customised 1 on 1, as the sizes produced at the time went up to Extra Large, a size still too small for Biggie Small’s girths.

Unfortunately, by the time the customised pieces were ready and shipped to New York, Biggie was already dead and could never wear them.

A few years later in 2002, Nigo and Shawn Mortensen organised a photo exhibition at the BAPE gallery in Japan entitled ‘It’s My Life… Or It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time’.

Shawn’s shots were on display, including one with Biggie wearing the famous BAPE jacket.  With that legendary photo, 50 white BAPE T-Shirts were produced and sold in extremely limited quantities: 10 of each size, from XS to X Small-Xtra Large, the size Nigo created exclusively for B.I.G.

4) BAPE invented the full zip hoodie

The Shark Hoodie is probably one of the most iconic garments from A Bathing Ape and Streetwer history in general, without exaggeration.

The birth of the Shark Hoodie dates back to 2004, when BAPE was at the height of its success; the quirky design and quirky details contribute to the idea that the brand offers something that can’t be found anywhere else: an explosive mix for the Hypebeast.

The characteristic shark design is actually inspired by the ‘snouts’ of military fighter planes or the hulls of warships.

The feature of the zip that closes the hood completely is, on the other hand, a rather unusual feature for the period, which paved the way for the Hoody design of the future.

When you see a jacket or sweatshirt with this type of hood, you will now know that Nigo invented it.

5) BAPE is the first brand to diss himself.

Nigo was the first – and the last – to have founded one brand, sold it, created another and dissed the previous one.

This is what more or less happened when Tomaki Nagao together with his graphic designer friend SK8THING – after a marathon of ‘The Planet of the Apes’ – had the intuition to create a brand with a stylised monkey logo.

The brand, from being a niche phenomenon, became – in spite of itself – a mass product and this led Nigo to sell 90% of the shares to the Hong Kong multi-brand multinational I.T., until the complete unravelling of the contract in 2013, which led Nigo to the definitive abandonment of the brand he created.

In 2014, the designer then decided to found another brand, this time focusing more on human values: having abandoned military references, Nigo focused on post-war American aesthetics. Thus Human Made was born.

Nigo reached a peak of unparalleled brilliance in 1999, when he produced a super-limited T-Shirt featuring a scene from the film “1999: Conquest of Earth” in which a protest sign reads “Go Human Not Ape”: a brilliant allusion to how apes have been enslaved by humans, affirming on the one hand the supremacy of HUMAN MADE, and on the other, the downgrading of BAPE which, since it is still his own creation, is like a self-dissing.



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