It was announced recently that Nigo was appointed the Creative Director of Uniqlo's UT project. The founder of A Bathing Ape now oversees the branch that produces limited-edition graphic T-shirts. UT has worked with the likes of Terry Richardson,Keith Haring, Gundam, Peter Sutherland, and others, but now they get the golden touch from the former designer of BAPE and Billionaire Boys Club.
We spoke with Nigo today on what he has in store in his new role, and how his experiences with BAPE will influence his decisions as UT's Creative Director. The new UT will debut this month, with new gear rolling out through the spring, and will be priced between $20 and $30.
After leaving BAPE this summer did you have a plan of what you wanted to do next? UT has never had a Creative Director before, so how did this all play out?
They approached me, and as you said Uniqlo hasn't had a Creative Director since the inception and they just thought it was time to do it. I was intrigued by Uniqlo because it’s the one Japanese brand on the scale that has a global reach and reaches customers all over the world, so to me it felt like an interesting thing to try.
I have no interest in doing the same thing again.
How do you think your experience with BAPE will shape your designs and how you go about your new role with UT?
Yeah, it's more than BAPE as a brand and more about my entire career and the way that I've worked to this day. Using graphic contents and the way I put things together is still a continuation of the same way of working, but just a different scale of distribution, as well as a different audience.
Looking back at your time with BAPE, do you think you accomplished everything you wanted? Or were there other designs and visions that you weren’t able to see through?
Not really. I don't really think like that, as I'm always looking forward.
The new UT line is undergoing major changes. It’s essentially a new standard of tee and taking on a new shape, torso, and feel. How will this complement your dope designs for the upcoming SS14 line?
I started from the starting point of changing the T-shirt iteslf. For example, we use a different T-shirt with various shapes and qualities of cotton depending on the design. So it kind of works from the garment up. Garment to design, in a way.
'How do you make something that translates to that many people, in different parts of the world?' That’s an interesting new venture for me.
So going off that, in what way does the garment influence your design?
I'm trying to make stuff match and feel appropriate. So for example, real classic Americana images are on a really classic tubular knit, slightly rough cotton, so like an old school feeling T-shirt. Like, the Schwinn T-shirt takes inspiration from BMX shirts. The designs are based off an old Japanese print maker, using a sluggish shirt, that have a somewhat Japanese feeling to it. So it feels like it works together, naturally.
That’s dope. Do you have a personal favorite design from the SS14 collection?
There are 1,000 tees in the collection, so that's tough. They’re all my favorite.
BAPE and UT are drastically different, as BAPE has almost a cult like following, whereas Uniqlo is already a powerhouse. Does this excite you that, in a way, you’re dealing with something completely new and established?
I think in terms of actual scale of the brands, UT is massive compared to BAPE. Just the number of people that it touches. So the interest for me, really, this time is I have no interest in doing the same thing again. I want to take on the challenge of a brand that’s totally global and has hundreds of thousand of customers all over the world, rather than a real core, group of people that you can connect to easily. So it's like the challenge now is a totally different direction. It's kind of like, "How do you make something that translates to that many people, in different parts of the world?" That’s an interesting new venture for me.
The UT line is notorious for its ill collabs, including Terry Richardson, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and even Disney. You definitely have a lot of collab experience from your days with BAPE, so what can you tell us about what’s ahead collab wise with UT?
Lots of collabs in the works as you see here. But it's important when working with licensed content that there’s a possibility they could take same image and put it somewhere else on a different T-shirt. I definitely don't want that to happen, so the way that I've gone about making this collection is there's a lot of exclusive stuff that is not going to be seen anywhere else. For example, that Hello Kitty design is something I got them to make specially for this collection. It's kind of against the standard rulebook, but it's something that is unique and will not appear anywhere else.
What are your goals for 2014?
I don't really set goals for myself, but I'm interested to know what everyone is expecting from me!