Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto may have put Tokyo on the fashion map in the 80s, but today Tomoaki “Nigo” Nagao, the 40-year-old DJ-turned-designer, is definitely the ringleader of Japan’s burgeoning hip-hop scene, whose aficionados queue for hours for a chance to buy his colourful merch.
Thought to be the owner of the world's largest collection of memorabilia from the Planet of the Apes sci-fi film franchise, Nigo made it the springboard for his A Bathing Ape (otherwise known as Bape) fashion empire, which is slowly conquering the planet with its brand of cool and very (very) upscale streetwear.
A Bathing Ape is known for the limited circulation of the products they produce – particularly their collaboration with other high-ticket brands. One such partnership is when they combined with L.A. luxury lifestyle brand Chrome Hearts (where Rolex watches are sold with one-of-a-kind Chrome Hearts bracelets in place of the stock band or strap), melting Bape characters and Chrome Hearts iconography into graphics to present a T-shirt collection that includes designs of Baby Milo. A popular sub-division of Bape clothing, Baby Milo is named after -who else- baby Milo, the son of the talking chimpanzees Cornelius and Zira, who grows up to be the leader (and chief instigator) of the ape revolution and the ruler of Ape City in the Planet of the Apes movie series.
These limited and exclusive tees were reportedly retailing for S$219 at the Bape store in Singapore -- where every customer is allowed to purchase only one of the special releases.
A Bathing Ape x Chrome Hearts (top), and vice-versa (bottom).
Chrome Hearts has evolved over the past two decades from a leather motorcycle riding-gear company to one that offers a line of handmade jewellery in precious metals and stones — as well as luggage, apparel and accessories in fine leathers and fabrics. Even with the opening of more than a dozen stores across the United States, Asia and Europe, the company likes to keep a low profile — no campaigns, look books or fashion shows. Chrome Hearts also prefers not to publicise prices, but let’s just say a flashy little number can cost you a month’s rent or more!