To call NIGO a packrat would be to discredit the immense wealth of creativity that his personal collections have provided him, and the whole of streetwear culture by extension. Having hosted a general auction of 250 items from his collection of largely Americana-centric paraphernalia in summer of last year, the collector of 39 years partnered up with Sotheby’s again on December 11 to auction off his Star Wars collection, which held a very special place in his heart. The Japanese creative has made no secret in the past of the rich sentimental value that the franchise holds for him, and with the approaching release date of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the “RETURN OF THE NIGO” auction could not have come at a more suitable time. We sat down with NIGO on the eve of the auction to discuss what exactly Star Wars means to him, the laborious process of collecting back in the day, and what kind of lasting impact the movies have had on his output in streetwear.
Why should the new generation care about Star Wars, a film which first hit the silver screen in 1977? Why do you think these characters still resonate with people?
Star Wars keeps adding new characters to the franchise, and the series as a whole just feels very cool, not just in this moment but in the future. The whole story arc is done very well. Compared to Star Trek, it feels better. On TV, Star Trek has always been a thing, but once it went on the big screen it completely changed. On the other hand, Star Wars did the big screen very well.
You obviously attach a lot of emotion to Star Wars. What ideas or theories can you transfer into your fashion design or cafes?
I don’t really attribute it to one thing, but the sum total of the series influences me. Star Wars puts out a whole set of characters, so it makes you want to buy them all. It’s made me think about the way in which I arrange my products to release. That’s one way it has particularly influenced me.
Now that Star Wars is a property of Disney, do you still think the Disney representation fits the Star Wars image as opposed to when Lucasfilm was independent?
We will need to see what Disney does. Whether Star Wars does well or not in the future all depends on Disney, as they have final say. They need to see how much they respect George Lucas’ vision. If they do respect what Lucas has done in the past, they should follow his route into the future. If Disney only thinks about business, then Star Wars will not do well.
You’ve collected these 600 items over so many years, how do you feel auctioning it all off at once?
I hope through this auction that I get everyone talking about Star Wars, so that I’ve contributed to the story in some way. What I’ve collected represents a culture within the past 20-30 years. If I suddenly passed away one day and my family doesn’t know what the collection is about or the value of the items and throws them away, then it would be a great pity.
After collecting for so many years from so many different sources, can you talk about the collection process?
Back then, it wasn’t like today where you can search for stuff on the Internet. You would have to buy Star Wars collector books and photocopy the pages of toys which you didn’t have yet, cut them out and string them on a keychain to carry around. I would go to toy fairs in America with the little self-made booklet, and once I saw something, I would reference my booklet. If I didn’t have it, I would buy it.
Which item will you miss the most?
That’s a difficult question! I would say I don’t want to remember the entire collection anymore because I will miss it a lot if I do.
What hopes and expectations do you have for the new trilogy?
I haven’t seen any of the trailers at all, because I want to watch the film in one go. But I do hope the original characters from the first trilogy will be accounted for.
Do you like any characters that aren’t too prominent within Star Wars?
I like ugly characters such as the bounty hunter Greedo, who was killed by Han Solo in the Mos Eisley Cantina early on in Episode 4. That character was funny, and I liked his mannerisms. Every time he talked, subtitles would appear, which I thought was really interesting.
What naturally attracted you to Star Wars?
I like how the whole story is so far away in distant space, but it still reflects on how we live our everyday lives. When I’m in Hong Kong and I see the skyline at night, or also the coming together of lots of different people in this one city, that feels like Star Wars to me.
This interview was originally posted on December 14, 2015. Happy Star Wars Day.
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