Neojaponisme: A Bathing Ape Takes a Final Bath

Just a few days ago, the street and fashion world was met with the shocking sale of over 90% of

2,129 Hypes 0 Comments

Just a few days ago, the street and fashion world was met with the shocking sale of over 90% of A Bathing Ape and its parent company NOWHERE to Hong Kong fashion conglomerate for minute sum of less than $3 million USD. In an article by Neojaponisme‘s W. David Marx, he parlays his own personal experience with A Bathing Ape and details its subsequent up and down success over the last 10 years which ultimately led to the sale of the brand. Many have speculated as to why the brand was sold for so little, however the Wall Street Journal painted a sobering picture in regards to how I.T is now in possession of NOWHERE’s ¥2.6 billion JPY (approximately $32 million USD) in debt. Looking back at Marx’s article, he speaks about the downfall of BAPE, it’s slight resurgence thanks to Pharrell Williams, and its relationship possessed between A Bathing Ape and the Chinese market. Ultimately, the sale of such a defining piece of Japanese fashion will leave many uneasy but then again, the Japanese economy has been slumping for some time. With ageism becoming a defining factor in its lack of progression on a corporate level, there seems to be larger issues than just the sale of a popular fashion brand. Excerpts can be seen below while the full article is seen here.

One day he drew a triangle on a piece of paper with the x-axis being number of consumers and the y-axis being brand cachet. He explained, “At the top point here are very cool but low-selling brands. At the bottom of the triangle are all the mass market brands with huge sales but no cachet. The secret to A Bathing Ape and the Ura-Harajuku brands is that they keep themselves right in the middle of the triangle and don’t let themselves slip down. They have a healthy number of consumers but they make sure to never go all the way to the bottom.”

This was the general understanding about A Bathing Ape’s success: They would always use specific marketing techniques to appear underground even when selling to millions of young Japanese across the country. I understood this “brand cachet über alles” strategy to be so integral to their success that I ended my thesis with the prediction, “Once the Ura-Harajuku cultural complex disintegrates, Ape may lose its subcultural base and will be subject to the normal forces of fad market structures. [Founder] Nigo will probably stop producing Ape before this point in order to save the brand’s reputation.”

How wrong I was.

Within a year of writing that overly-confident forecast of Nigo’s future fate, the brand embarked on an extremely conspicuous tie-up campaign with soda maker Pepsi. Bape then quickly dropped all of its previously-important artificial brand barriers to mass market appeal and tried to win over anybody and everybody. When I moved back to Japan in 2003, things looked pretty grim for A Bathing Ape: The Tokyo stores were empty during weekdays, and the only consumers seemed to be the high school kids who came into the big city on weekends.

In 2001, we believed that A Bathing Ape had mastered the dynamics of the brand life-cycle pyramid so that it would never fall prey to the dangers of becoming too mass market and seeing their consumer base quickly dry up. But with the changes in 2002, the brand went on an expansion spree that could rival Uniqlo. There were Busy Work Shops in every single major and minor regional city from Kyushu to Hokkaido despite declining demand. At some point Nigo established a Bape-themed hair salon, a restaurant, an art gallery, shops for his secondary lines like Bape Kids and Baby Milo. Meanwhile they were so desperate for consumers that Nigo stopped any sort of passing attempt to be cool. Most famously, Nigo made $15 yellow Ape-head T-shirts for Nippon Television’s charity telethon 24 Hour TV in 2007, which could often be seen on the backs of housewives and elementary school kids.

So if Nigo’s 18-year old pet ape is being primarily consumed by the Chinese in its old age, it only makes sense that a Hong Kong based company — I.T Ltd. — would buy out the whole thing (including the debt). The depressing detail was the 90% equity purchase only cost the acquirers $2.8 million. Nigo has easily put more than that in his art, toy, and vintage LV trunk collection alone. This sell off of A Bathing Ape is an incredibly dramatic flame out for a company that defined the potential of Japanese independent brands to go abroad and changed the face of global fashion. It’s better than bankruptcy but not exactly a feel good denouement to an otherwise remarkable success story.

Source: Gary Warnett

Undoubtedly, many have felt the downfall of A Bathing Ape has been sometime coming, however does the sale of the brand to a Chinese-based company have any change on your outlook of the brand?

Read Full Article

Join Our Discussions on Discord

The HYPEBEAST Discord Server is a community where conversations on cultural topics can be taken further.

101 Users Online

What to Read Next

Stone Island Reflective Jacket

Stone Island Reflective Jacket

Stone Island’s Reflective Jacket is undoubtedly the Italian brand’s marquee piece for this

Casio G-Shock GF-1000BP-1DR Frogman

Casio G-Shock GF-1000BP-1DR Frogman

For those wanting a substantial dive watch in the past on a decent budget, they didn’t have to



Upon its conception, uniform experiment was seemingly positioned as a brand for those wanting a

visvim Chieftain 3L GORE-TEX Jacket

visvim Chieftain 3L GORE-TEX Jacket

visvim offer yet another solid GORE-TEX jacket with their Chieftain 3L GORE-TEX piece.

adidas Originals ZX789
Footwear Fashion

adidas Originals ZX789

adidas Originals take the hybrid route with their ZX789 by combining some contemporary design



COMME des GARCONS SHIRT offer a large duffle bag in their latest season. Coming in two

More ▾
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Gain access to exclusive interviews with industry creatives, think pieces, trend forecasts, guides and more.

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Help us serve you better

We appreciate your support in allowing HYPEBEAST ads, where we can share contents from the latest fashion, to those culturally relevant. In adding HYPEBEAST to your ad blocker's whitelist, ads on our sites will show while you continue to browse.

Help Support Us

We need ads to keep the lights on and to continue providing free news to our readers. We’d appreciate your support by whitelisting HYPEBEAST on your ad blocker. That way you can keep reading all the great stories for free.

If you have already whitelisted us, simply refresh this page. To find out how to whitelist us, click the button below.


Add Us to Whitelist

We appreciate your support in allowing HYPEBEAST ads. Most ad blockers have similar whitelisting steps and settings. If you need assistance, please contact us.

Adblock Plus

  1. Click on the red ABP icon in the upper right corner of your browser.
  2. Click “Enabled on this site” to disable ad blocking for the current site. In Firefox click “disable on HYPEBEAST”.
  3. Refresh the HYPEBEAST page that you were viewing.


  1. Click the AdBlock hand icon.
  2. Click “Don’t run on pages on this domain”.
  3. A new “Don’t run AdBlock on…” dialog may be displayed in the middle of the screen.
  4. Move the “Site” slider to the right. After that, click “Exclude”.
  5. Refresh the HYPEBEAST page that you were viewing.


  1. Click the uBlock icon.
  2. Click the large blue “power” button in the menu that appears to whitelist the current website.
  3. Reload the HYPEBEAST page that you were viewing.

Firefox Browser

Firefox Tracking Protection may activate our whitelist notice, which can be disabled temporarily for a browsing session by clicking the shield icon in the URL bar and following the instructions.


  1. Click the Disconnect icon.
  2. Click “Whitelist site”.
  3. Refresh the HYPEBEAST page that you were viewing.