A comprehensive feature has just been published on honeyee involving the two creative minds behind the recently seen A BATHING APE x Stussy holiday collection. An in-depth interview picks the brain of both NIGO and Stussy’s creative director, Paul Mittleman who both share a profound mutual respect for one another. Additionally, the influence of Harajuku is prominently mentioned as the catalyst for creativity and innovation. The excerpts can be seen below.
So how did the collaboration come about?
N: We did a small collaboration earlier this year, but it was Paul who suggested we do something on a bigger scale.
P: Stussy and BAPE have never really done anything together in the past. So now, having the opportunity to do something with a brand we had never worked with, it seemed a shame not to make it real opportunity and to waste it by just doing another tee shirt. If it was going to work out – communicating long distance – we needed to be able to trust each other. After the first meeting it moved forward with Nigo, Sk8THG and the team without too much back and forth, it was just easy.
N: It also felt easy to collaborate on this from my side too. Stussy was here first and I grew up wearing it. Of course it was an influence and in a way an aspiration for me – to create a brand like that. I saw a photo of Paul as a member of the “International Stussy Tribe” before I met him. I really wanted one of those varsity jackets (laughs).
P: I can’t remember exactly when I first met Nigo, but it was early on, when he started the company. But there was a certain point where we came back to Japan and you’re like: “Wow -this BAPE thing’s serious!”. Within a short space of time they did an insane job of creating an identity, clothing and branding. In the story of streetwear: Stussy may have started it but BAPE took it and redefined it for the next generation.
Do you think that the story of Harajuku has value to an international audience?
P: I have been influenced by the culture that came out of Harajuku and I think that global culture has been influenced too. but there really aren’t so many people overseas who understand the origin of that culture. Things have changed, but I think that there was something unique about the culture here, which I find interesting. There was a real community between different groups that can’t be found in New York or London. Also, the brands that emerged from Harajuku were based in American culture, but they weren’t just following the formula. Not to say that it’s a misunderstanding of American culture – I recognize my own culture again in a new way in Harajuku’s culture.
N: Talking about networks – Stussy always had a world-wide network: Hiroshi (Fujiwara) in Tokyo, Michael (Kopelman) in London. I was in awe of that. By the way the theme for my outfit is “HF ’89″ (laughs).
P: I first came to Tokyo in 1990. Hiroshi was definitely wearing an MA-1. I remember that he gave me a GOODENOUGH T-shirt. There is a real network in different places around the world. It’s great to know that there are friends in any of the world’s cities. The “International Stussy Tribe” network is so big now. I think the distribution list for the IST varsity would be way too long (laughs). But in the early 90′s it was impossible to get BAPE except by coming to Tokyo and it was hard to find out about the brand. That was one thing that always made coming to Tokyo special.
The items in the collaboration are mostly BAPE styles from the 90′s?
N: Well, yes – Paul basically presented a plan of designs, and I made a few comments on that and moved it forward. It does feel like we arrived at a sort of 90′s feel somehow. Maybe younger people will be able to see this as something fresh, for people of my generation there is a hint of nostalgia there.
P: In the 90′s BAPE’s introduction of the proprietary camo’s was very new and influential. Stussy was important to the development of T-shirts, but BAPE took the sweatshirt to the next level. The use of graphics and print on sweatshirts have become a standard. It isn’t easy for one brand to create an item that becomes a standard in the product line-ups of other brands, it was a game changer.
N: Thank you. Overall I think this is a good collection. The fact of these two brands doing something together is something that has a certain impact throughout the world. I think that’s interesting. It is was to understand – in a positive way. I think that’s what Paul was thinking to do this time.