Within the last year, we’ve seen steady progression from two of Japan’s most respected fashion personalities. Both enjoying great success with their respective brands, NIGO® of A Bathing Ape and Jun Takahashi of UNDERCOVER both re-convened on one of their earlier initiatives, NOWHERE, one that was among the catalysts for their own beginnings in the fashion world. The return of the NOWHERE store many years after the initial location and brand brings forth a new interesting dynamic which embodies a mixture of both UNDERCOVER and A Bathing Ape. We recently had the opportunity to speak with both Takahashi and NIGO regarding various topics surrounding their relationship and topics pertaining to the store and brand itself.
Interview: Jason Chow
Photography: Season Chan
Interview with NIGO® & Jun Takahashi
How did you two originally meet?
We actually went to the same school. At the time Jun was my senior.
With you guys both maintaining extensive brands and businesses, has it become difficult to meet up as often as you’d like?
It’s a weird situation, in the past we didn’t see each other often because we were each so busy with our own projects and brands. But of course with the return of NOWHERE, we now have the chance to meet up more frequently.
How has presenting at Pitti Uomo changed UNDERCOVER’s exposure on a global level?
Jun: Before, UNDERCOVER was a female-centric brand. But now I’ve opened the doors to menswear as well. We now show in both Paris and Italy and overall it’s a satisfying feeling and it has probably attracted some more exposure.
What was the reasoning behind stepping down from A Bathing Ape? Was this something that was inevitable
NIGO: I had originally made plans to step down from A Bathing Ape operations some time ago. However, this didn’t really mean that I was relinquishing my hold of the company. More so, it was a chance to focus more on the creative-side of things and allow for much more freedom in design acting as a freelance designer.
As you both started your respective brands, how would you describe NOWHERE’s aesthetic? Is it something that is a combination of both your styles?
At the core, NOWHERE’s aesthetic and design language is a combination of both A Bathing Ape and UNDERCOVER. Mind you, our tastes are a bit different from the concept of each respective brand but nevertheless it embodies our approach to fashion.
What sort of items can we expect to see in the NOWHERE space?
We wanted to bring a better version of NOWHERE with an improved collection. Essentially, the capsule is a natural evolution of our previous approaches.
Did you try to replicate the décor of the original NOWHERE location?
Yes, I think that was something both of us wanted to do, which was pay tribute to our original retail front. However, we did want to make sure everything was on an increased level of quality. Given the facts, we have more resources now so we wanted to create something memorable.
Do you feel that the influx of big corporate brands into Harajuku have taken away from the original creative essence of the Ura-Hara movement?
Back in the day, Harajuku was all about vintage shopping and vintage retailers. With the influx of brands and concepts such as NOWHERE, I think we helped changed the environment of Harajuku and ushered in a new movement. Perhaps one that has become a bit of the central theme to the creative and independent aspect of Harajuku.
Did the big brands affect the scene in Harajuku?
I would say the styles are different but overall, the inclusion of large brands into the Harajuku landscape creates something bright and beautiful and not necessarily as bad as many would perceive.
How come Japanese brands are, for the most part, slow to develop on a global scale?
Japanese brands often focus more on the creative aspect of their work. Business isn’t the main focal point of owning a brand. With the beginnings of most Japanese brands, the design and being creative are the most important things and only when there is a bit of local acceptance does the brand slowly begin to fan out on a larger scale. But overall, without this mentality of business, it does result in slower operations and developments on a global scale.
Do you want to keep your presence more within Japan? Or branch out globally?
We only want to further grow our brand on a wider scale when we’re confident of the brand’s direction and products.
Any upcoming projects?
For NOWHERE itself, we don’t really have anything in the pipeline.
NIGO: Being a freelance creative, I have a lot more opportunities but I’m keeping them under wraps for now.
Jun: My only wish is to continue improving what I do.
Jun and NIGO, thanks for much for your time. Do you have any last words?
Thank you very much for the opportunity and please come to our store!