A Bathing Ape (ア・ベイジング・エイプ, A Beijingu Eipu) (or BAPE) is a Japanese fashion brand founded by Nigo (Tomoaki Nagao) in Ura-Harajuku in 1993. The brand specializes in men’s, women’s, and children’s lifestyle and streetwear.
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A Bathing Ape (BAPE) History
Nigo, founder, and owner cites his mother and father, who was a nurse and a billboard maker respectively, as major influences in the development of his character, though because they both worked, he spent a lot of time alone with toys. He also credits DJ/fashion guru Hiroshi Fujiwara as his business model. His nickname means “number two” in Japanese; the MD of Astoarobot, the fashion store, coined the moniker when he noted the physical resemblance to Fujiwara. Nigo cites his early influences as Elvis, The Beatles, and hip-hop acts such as Beastie Boys and Run–D.M.C.
After studying fashion editing at college, he worked as an editor and a stylist for Popeye magazine. After borrowing four million yen from an acquaintance, who also let him use his shop, he opened “Nowhere”, his first store, along with Jun Takahashi of Undercover, on April 1, 1993, in Ura-Harajuku. Deciding to start his own brand, he named it after the 1968 film Planet of the Apes. According to Nigo, the name “BAPE” is a reference to “A Bathing Ape in Lukewarm Water”. Japanese people typically have daily baths in water at temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 °F). As such, to bathe in lukewarm water is to complacently overindulge as it implies you have stayed in the bath for so long the water has become cold. This is an ironic reference to the lazy opulence of the younger generation of Japanese, the brand’s own customers.
To expose the brand he gave T-shirts to the musician Cornelius who wore them when performing. For two years he produced 30 to 50 shirts a week, selling half and giving half to friends. In 1997, Nigo released his debut album Ape Sounds under Mo’Wax, with DJ/Producer James Lavelle of UNKLE. Nigo is also co-owner and head designer of Pharrell Williams’ clothes brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream.