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Interview: NIGO

The former BAPE mastermind on the real and the hidden in design

Posted by Finn Houlihan

NIGO’s design work has always been heavily entrenched in the malleability of iconography and the significance of collaborations and partnerships. His legacy with his label BAPE and the way its influence bled both ways between his clothing and hip-hop artists is testament to this. Now, he’s launched adidas by NIGO, a reimagining of many classic ’80s adidas items that carry his distinct design ideals across into a drastically different street wear format. We briefly discussed notions of the ‘real’ in design, the pleasant nature of coincidences and the odds of future musical projects with the Japanese designer.

What is it about the classic adidas varsity jacket and Superstar 80s silhouette that made you want to reinterpret it in your distinct style? 

They do mean something to me because of Run DMC and that whole era, which opened my eyes to a new world when I was young… But they are also, clearly, very classic styles and I’ve never stopped wearing and collecting them.

When approaching a brand’s established design. Do your influences and style come first or is the look of the brand a bigger priority? 

I am trying to present adidas by NIGO and not NIGO for adidas. There is a lot of history between me and this brand so it’s a complicated and delicate relationship.

What do you think you have in common with adidas Originals as a brand? What do you think is different?

Hopefully what I am designing for the collection represents the intersection in a more eloquent way than I can describe in words.

What is it about Ari Marcopoulos photographic style that attracted you to working with him on the visuals of this collection?

Ari is a “real” photographer in that his approach is to hang out with his subjects and become part of their world and then capture genuine moments. So I don’t think it’s a technique – it reflects something real, that can’t be imitated. I wanted that because there is something real in clothes that can be obscured by the other reality: which is “giant corporation contracts with well-known designer”.

You’ve mentioned you don’t like it when models look ‘deliberately dressed’. Why do you like candid photography opposed to overly constructed images?

It’s a matter of personal taste. But, I have always been most excited about seeing my clothes on the street. I think it means more if it has more reality.

Your 25th anniversary auction happened earlier this year. Does the 25 printed on some items in this collection represent both your name (ni go) and your legacy?

I hadn’t thought about the 25th anniversary at the time, and I was just thinking of a way to brand the products that identified me as the designer and would work for a sportswear maker. I like these coincidences, though – they always seem to have some kind of significance.

Last time I was at Yellow Pop in Shimokitazawa, I picked up some singles from your Shadow of the Ape Sounds record and was blown away. I couldn’t believe it was from 14 years ago. Do you ever think about making more music?

As a musician – no, not at the moment.

I do like the aspect of total production that comes into play with music projects: sound, clothes, video, graphic design, live show – so many interesting things to do. Lately I have started producing a pop group in that way… we’ll see what happens.

More Nigo

Lookbook: adidas originals by NIGO feat. Ratking

10 steals you missed from Nigo’s Sotheby’s auction

Just look at Pharrell, Kanye, Big Sean and Nigo in this 2008 AAPE time capsule

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