June 16, 2024

Fashion Design

Fashion Designs that Enlighten the Soul.

Legendary streetwear design Nigo talks UNIQLO, UT

5 min read

What do Kanye West, Cara Delevigne and Japanese retailer UNIQLO have in common? One word (or person, really): Nigo.

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What do Kanye West, Cara Delevigne and Japanese retailer UNIQLO have in common? One word (or person, really): Nigo.

Google the name and you’ll see the Japanese fashion designer pictured alongside the likes of hip-hop stars, music producers and celebrities. So, who exactly is Nigo? In short, the mononymous designer is a big deal in the fashion design world. 

Nigo has had a long history in the street wear industry — most notably with his brands A Bathing Ape and Billionaire Boys Club — where he has created colourful collections full of covetable hoodies and T-shirts that have inspired a near cult-like following. And he’s bringing that unique brand of street-chic to the masses in his role as creative director for UNIQLO’s UT collection.

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Speaking to media during the UNIQLO global press event in Tokyo earlier this month — translated via none other than fellow street wear legend Toby Feltwell of Cav Empt — Nigo talked fashion, his role at UT and his art influence.  

On reimagining T-shirts:

“The thing about working on T-shirts, is there is less room to make design changes in the format — as in the shape of the clothing is basically fixed. It’s always an exercise in coming up with original, different and exciting content on the shirt.”

On keeping his personal expression out of UT:

“Working within this framework is something that is still challenging. But the way Nigo has dealt with it is to not really try to make what he’s doing a personal expression. He’s not trying to put too much of himself into what he’s doing. But he’s gradually felt comfortable to try putting in some contents with which he has a more personal connection. So, he’s gradually bringing a bit more of himself into it. ”

On how he defines “cool”:

“It’s kind of difficult to analyze, for Nigo himself, to say what makes what he does ‘cool’. But, perhaps, he’s always worked in a way of taking his lifestyle and translating that into his design output. So, it’s his actual life.”

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On his art influence:

“Nigo doesn’t necessarily think of his relationship to the artists that he works with and the art that he’s collected as being part of the art world in so much as it often comes out of a personal relationship or friendship. He’s been friends with Kaws and Futura for something like 20 years and it started with, OK, I will give you a T-shirt if you give me a painting. In a way, it is very separate from what the art world has become. For him, it’s very personal — again, going back to it being part of his lifestyle. He doesn’t understand the motivation of somebody to spend millions and millions on a Basquiat painting.”

On the role of music in his design process:

“When Nigo is working in his atelier or travelling in the car, there is constant music of all different types. But when he is working here on UT, there is no music. It’s silence. He’s thinking that maybe that’s important to ensure there’s not too much influence. It’s not the way he would work on his own personal collections, but for UT, that seems to be appropriate. Silence with no outside influence.”

On creating designs for a mass audience:

“The rule he’s working under for UT is that everything has to be available globally — so the same products available worldwide. Even on a more basic logistical level, there’s obstacles with trademarks in some countries. So, the process of getting the collection out involves clearing quite a few hurdles.”

On his lasting legacy at UT:

“He actually thinks it’s important to make not too much of an impression in this role because it’s about UT rather than being about Nigo, personally. But from the perspective of customers of UT, he thinks they’ll probably remember his work with Kaws and Pharrell because they’re the most Nigo-like things that he’s done while he’s here.”

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