A Bathing Ape
It is 1970 and Tomoaki Nagao, now known as Nigo, is born. His most important moment, however, comes after his graduation from Bunka Fashion College and working at Popeye Magazine. The then-23-year old comes with the now-iconic Japanese streetwear brand. It's called A Bathing Ape.
Sounds a bit strange, don't you think? Who would put a bathing monkey in a brand's name? But the meaning is much more poetic than it may first appear. It's based on two basic patterns. The first is the 1968 science fiction film Planet of the Apes, the second takes us to Nigo's home country - Japan. It is based on the Japanese tradition of taking long baths in very hot (40 degree Celsius) water, in which one sits until the water cools. Hence "A Bathing Ape in Lukewarm Water". The phrase ironically alludes to the brand's end customers, a young and carefree Japanese generation whose biggest concerns were doing well on midterms, college entrance exams and buying new BAPE t-shirts.
The hype around the brand was huge in the early years, and it was developed by the strategy of selling things as well. At the very beginning BAPE produced 50 t-shirts a week, half of which were sold, while the other half was given away by its representatives to the biggest stars of Tokyo streetwear to increase popularity. The hype around the brand was compounded by an artificial scarcity of product (A Bathing Ape produced clothes to meet about 10% of demand). The huge demand spread quickly thanks to popular rappers (Notorious B.I.G) and influencers, and it wasn't stopping. It didn't take long for it to reach the land of the American dream. Gradually, a store opened in New York and Los Angeles, the story continued, popularity continued to grow, and BAPE found its way to Europe.
Collaborations played a big part in the Japanese brand's success. And there's been many of them over the years. Carhartt WIP, Kanye West, Supreme, adidas, KAWS and many more.
A Bathing Ape is one of the most important brands in streetwear. It has been an inspiration for many other brands and its popularity is still huge!