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A Bathing Ape Is One of Japan's Hottest Fashion Brands (November 16, 2005)

A doll of the Bathing Ape mascot (Jiji)
A Bathing Ape in Lukewater must be one of the world's most unusual brand names. The street-fashion label created by Japanese designer Nigo has earned a fanatical following among celebrities and young people both inside and outside Japan. The clothes and accessories - limited-edition items all - are readily identifiable by the brand's trademark monkey emblem. A Bathing Ape's growth into a highly distinctive label with legions of devoted followers owes much both to the quality of the products themselves and to Nigo's personal philosophy of always insisting on the best.

Underground Appeal
Within Tokyo's Shibuya district - the spawning ground for many new youth culture trends - lies an area known as Ura-Harajuku that is packed with street-fashion shops. One particular shop, A Bathing Ape, often has a long line out front. The shop's name has become synonymous with Ura-Harajuku. The Bathing Ape brand was founded in 1993 by Nigo (who, as it happens, is a Planet of the Apes fan), and the brand's monkey symbol can now be seen on the streets of London, New York, and other fashion capitals.

In its early days, A Bathing Ape had a dedicated underground following in Japan, mainly among young people. Then, when a famous actor wore one of its down jackets on a popular TV drama, the brand came instantly into the limelight. A Bathing Ape counts many fashion-conscious artists and celebrities among its fans; Nigo has even designed tour t-shirts for the hip-hop group Schadaraparr and the pop singer Cornelius. The brand's name, derived from the Japanese saying "nuruma yu ni tsukaru" ("soaking in lukewarm water"), is a sarcastic jab at today's Tokyo youth, who in Nigo's eyes have become so comfortable that they are incapable of making plans, setting goals, or standing on their own two feet.

A Bathing Ape products are of extremely high quality in terms of both material and construction. The fact that they are produced in limited numbers creates a scarcity value that is further fueled by a store sales policy of allowing customers (who, remember, often have to wait in line to get in) to purchase only one item at a time - and only in their own size.

Aggressive Non-Promotion
Although A Bathing Ape clothing and accessories have appeared in the TV commercials of Sony and other large corporations, the brand itself does not advertise. The anonymous storefront and the lack of advertising have only served to heighten Bathing Ape mania. The goods fly off the shelves despite their very high prices: around ¥10,000 ($87 at ¥115 to the dollar) for a t-shirt, ¥20,000 to ¥30,000 ($174 to $261) for a pair of jeans, and nearly ¥200,000 (over $1,700) for a down jacket.

Even the brand's shopping bags (bearing the inscription "Ape shall never kill ape") are popular, and special women's and children's editions have even been created. The original trademark character, the big-headed ape, has been joined by another representative: a cute cartoon ape named Baby Milo who is attracting a whole new crop of fans to the brand.

A Bathing Ape's popularity owes itself not only to the style and quality of the goods but also to the designer himself, whose distinctive personality has attracted many adoring fans. Nigo is what is known in Japanese pop culture as a "charisma designer." Nigo's name, which means "The Second," is actually a nickname he earned because of his facial resemblance to Fujiwara Hiroshi, another "charisma designer" (and a DJ as well) who bases his creative endeavors in Ura-Harajuku.

Besides being a designer, Nigo also has a music label (Bape Sound), a cafe, and a beauty salon, and produces a TV show. His involvement in so many different fields is one of the inspirations for his fashion designs.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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