Interview: Nigo Partners with Coca-Cola and Beams for a Capsule Collection

An exclusive conversation with the Japanese designer about his vintage inspired Coke workwear.

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Image via Complex Original
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Nigo, the designer who created streetwear as we know it with A Bathing Ape, is renowned for his obsession with all things vintage Americana, and that definitely includes classic Coca-Cola memorabilia. So, in a partnership that makes more sense than Coke and burgers, the revered Japanese store Beams brought in Nigo and his new brand Human Made to research and reinterpret Coca-Cola workwear and uniforms from the early 20th century. The resulting Coca-Cola x Human Made by Beams capsule collection celebrates the legacy of America's greatest export with clothes that represent the aesthetics and sartorial qualities of the time.

One thing you may not know about Nigo (besides that he was a yo-yo champion) is that he's an avid collector of Coca-Cola memorabilia, and he pulled from his personal collection to inspire and reinterpret for this project. Since his youth, he's been sitting on an impressive wardrobe of vintage Coke-wear, saying "I have been wearing Coca-Cola since back in high school - be it vintage tees or my retro red Coke leather jeacket, which is one of my most prized possessions." 

The capsule collection may hark back to wholesome images of the Coke delivery man on Main Street, America, but we can easily see a Japanese streetwear star rocking the Shop Coat in Daikanyama; a steezy Italian capolayering up with the Work Jacket; or a downtown NYC scenester draped up in the Jodhpur Shorts and vintage Coke Cap. One thing's for sure - when forces like Nigo and Coca-Cola collide, it's gonna pop off. We hit up Nigo to hear more about the collection, which will be in Beams today and in Haven, RSVP Gallery, and Present shops and online later this month.

Interview by James Harris (Dr_TacoMD)

What does Coca-Cola symbolize in Japan, and what does it symbolize to you?
To me, it symbolizes being a design legend. From the classic can to the bottle, its enduring appeal lies in the simplicity of its design. And refreshment - it tastes so good.
Why did you want to work with Coca-Cola? 
I am a Coca-Cola collector. I have been collecting memorabilia for over 20 years now, from early 20th century vendor overalls to flat-pocket bottle openers, coolers and  original glassware. I have wanted to do something with them since founding Human Made. A lot of the Human Made pieces have a roughly hewn aesthetic from a bygone industrial uniform era. Therefore, Coke's vendor wear from the 1900s was a natural fit in my mind. 
What was your goal or mission when you first started out?
I just tried to do what I love. And create the things I wanted to create. 
What type of research did you do to explore the vintage Coca-Cola uniforms and workwear?
I looked to my own collection. I have a vintage red leather jacket featuring a "Coca-Cola In Bottles" logo emblazoned on the back. This logo disappeared from employee uniforms a long time ago, and I wanted to bring back some of these details in the new collection.
Did you have to go to great lengths to track down any hard-to-find pieces?
Not really, I just visit the vintage stores in Tokyo. The Japanese go crazy for memorabilia from classic American brands like Coke.
What are some ways that you stayed true to these vintage pieces? 
We used crude stitching - which is true to the look back then. We also chose antiquated clothing pieces, such as shop coats, overalls, and work shirts.
What the modern updates or improvements you added for the guys who will buy this collection?
The fit is sharper. The fabric is lighter.
How do you feel about the finalized capsule collection? What kind of guy would want to wear these pieces?
It's a sharp, tight collection. I would love to see my friends wearing this. I will be giving them the pieces to wear for spring time.
Can you tell us about your experiences as Japan's Coca-Cola yo-yo champion in the '80s?
I collected all the yo-yos. Not just the Coke one, but also the Sprite and Fanta ones. I still do a mean 'Rock the Baby' and 'Walk the Dog!'
Watch Nigo show off the vintage Coca-Cola Pieces that inspired the capsule collection below:

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