Japanese streetwear label A Bathing Ape, or Bape for short, has finally arrived in Singapore.
|Bape's trademark Baby Milo hoodies in grey and navy blue ($379).
Founded in 1993, the label – famous for its quirky graphics and tie-ups with artists and hip-hop singers – has 24 stores in Japan and cities like Hong Kong, London and New York.
It opened a 2,045 sq ft store here at Mandarin Gallery last month and creator Tomoaki Nagao, better known as Nigo, designed a special T-shirt for the occasion.
The 100-piece, limited-edition design, priced at $129 each, bears Bape’s distinctive ape motif modified to look like the Merlion.
True to Bape’s cult status, the T-shirt sold out within three weeks.
Bape has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the backstreets of Tokyo’s Harajuku district.
Besides its regular clothing stores and two Bape Exclusive boutiques that sell an exclusive range of clothing and footwear, there is also a Bape hair salon, a Bape Cafe and a recording company called Bape Sounds.
The last represents hip-hop quintet Teriyaki Boyz, of which the multi-talented Nigo, 36, is also a member.
|Bapesta sneakers in avariety of colours ($339).
Clothing and footwear will remain the core business of Bape, says Nigo.
Prices here range from $19 for keytags to $599 for jeans.
Bape, he explains, is short for “a bathing ape in lukewarm water”.
It refers to the Japanese tradition of bathing in water above 40 deg C and is an analogy for “the lack of drive faced by our generation”.
On why the label took so long to make its Singapore debut, Nigo says Bape has never tried to grow “explosively, only steadily” and has his eyes set on China next.
Despite popularising streetwear in the early 1990s with limited-edition T-shirts, the designer says he does not recognise the term streetwear.
“Streetwear and cult are not what I set out to do. I have done so many different things in 16 years that it doesn’t seem right to categorise.”
While other Japanese fashion designers were big on deconstruction elements then, Bape offered a new notion of premium-priced casualwear for youth.
The brand’s basic graphic T-shirts and fuss-free chinos were revolutionary for their sheer simplicity.
Its desirable cult status was sealed with the brand’s clever use of the “limited edition” tag.
Nigo shares: “When we started, we didn’t have enough money so we made small runs in the tens and grew them steadily. It worked for us so we stuck with this distinguishing trait.”
|Bape founder Nigo has his eyes set next on the China market.
The brand has been credited with popularising artistic tie-ups by tapping graffiti artists well before luxury goods conglomerates bought into the concept.
The brand’s iconic camouflage print was created in 1994 in olive, blue and pink and has expanded to include pastels and neons.
Its global brand tie-ups have also maintained the brand’s relevance, including camouflage-print Pepsi cans and Mickey Mouse plush toys.
On what is next for the brand, the designer says: “There is nothing planned for the immediate future but, who knows, I rarely plan anything.”
This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times.