To celebrate the official launch of MR PORTER, a new online shopping destination for men that was created by the founders of Net-A-Porter, the website features an interview with Japanese design hero NIGO. At his design studio in Tokyo, NIGO reveals a couple of details about his new clothing line, Mr. Bathing Ape, that merges British eccentricity and American classicism and will debut exclusively on MR PORTER. In the interview, NIGO also opens up about the close relationship between music and fashion, what items he thinks every man should have in his wardrobe, and some of his favorite places in Tokyo. Check out an excerpt from the interview below.
What an interesting desk. Where is it from?
It’s a bespoke storage unit by Snap-on Tools, from Kenosha, Wisconsin. The colour is important. I like pop colours and Snap-on cabinets have great colourways. It’s also a solid piece of equipment and it comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Your workspace is clean and industrial – almost like a factory space – why did you want it that way?
That just seems to me to be the easiest environment to work in. I keep things clean and ordered by default. It is not something I really think about.
What are the main items on and around your desk and why are they there? For inspiration?
There are several vintage displays and signs from the 1940s onward. They serve no purpose in particular, but I am a collector and I have a large collection of vintage signs and point-of-sale displays. These are just a few of my things in this picture. I am interested in brands and their history. I like industrial products, which, nonetheless, have character. I don’t think they have inspired me directly, but I do see these things around me all of the time so perhaps they have without my realising.
You made your name designing streetwear, which now has a cult following. What prompted you to launch Mr. Bathing Ape, with its contrasting emphasis on formal tailoring?
I am motivated to make things when I feel a personal need. I wanted and needed to have those kinds of clothes for myself, for my work. I think people always expected me to be casually dressed and, in many ways, I found myself exempt from dress codes. When I started to wear suits I discovered that sometimes to wear one for a specific meeting or occasion actually makes whoever I’m meeting – and also therefore myself – more relaxed than if I was wearing casual clothes. Perhaps that is also another symptom of me getting older, which is something else I was going to mention.
You have spent time with some of Savile Row’s finest tailors, including Huntsman and Anderson & Sheppard. How important is the British influence to Mr. Bathing Ape?
It is important. I really enjoy having suits made on Savile Row. I think there is more of a British than American influence in the clothes, but I am not trying to make anything authentically British at all.
With more than 17 years of experience in the industry, what have you come to like most about fashion?
At the moment I like this encounter with suits. I am really glad to have become interested in the most basic style of menswear at this stage in my career. I like the fact that it’s a world of simplicity, but great depth. There are rules that can be arranged or ignored, but never destroyed.
You have worked with some of the biggest names in music, from the Beastie Boys to Mr Pharrell Williams and Jay Z, and DJ-ed for the Teriyaki Boyz, among others. Why do you think there is such a link between music and fashion?
I was a DJ and a stylist first and then I suppose I became a designer and musician. To me they were always part of the same thing from the start. I didn’t particularly prefer one to the other, so to me it’s a hard question to answer. In my case, I became more successful for fashion and so it must seem that that is my ‘job’, and for practical reasons it takes up far more of my time than music now.
What item should every man have in his wardrobe?
I think I can recommend that everyone buys a pair of Levi’s 501s and shrinks-to-fit at least once in their life.
What are your top five ‘must visit’ places in Tokyo?
My shops (of course), Isetan department store (just being honest), Kabuki (the Kabuki-za, the main theatre, is currently closed for renovations/rebuild but there are performances all of the time elsewhere), Curry Up (another one of my establishments), Takeshita Dori (the real Harajuku?).
Read the full interview here.