As expected, Nigo’s debut show for Kenzo was one of the most impressive collections at Paris Fashion Week. But what was unexpected was how he used the show to highlight why he’s just as important as a curator as he is a creator. Indeed, Nigo, the Curator is a master at reminding us of stuff that exists at the exact right moment.
When he started his Human Made line, he largely trafficked in vintage homages to the midcentury imagery and heritage gear he’s been collecting all his life. Even last year’s Levi’s collaboration, pulling from his own archive to reproduce a pair of 1915 buckleback 501s and the famed Levi’s Type II Trucker Jacket he admits he spent too much money on in his Complex interview, is more an exercise in authentic reproduction than design. Although to ensure that his limited-edition collab was up to snuff, Nigo did reportedly make sure the factory got all the details right, like the asymmetrical back pockets on the 501 jeans.
At Kenzo, Nigo gets super referential once again. Considering the king of collaborations importantly chose not to debut any on the runway, Nigo said in several interviews his aspirations for the brand are to take fashion a bit more closer to its roots. In a world where collabs get the lion’s share of hype and demand, what if he just made desirable clothes people wanted enough to buy?
The point can be made that the entire collection is a collaboration in itself—Nigo with the house of Kenzo, and also the established codes of the late Kenzo Takada, the house’s founder who passed away last year from Covid-19 complications. True to his character as an enthusiast, Nigo wasted no time digging through the archives to turn Takada-san’s sketches into an all-over print, but also reviving several floral patterns that are sure to become IG style staples once they’re available.
As someone known for graphic tees and hoodies, it’s not surprising to see Nigo continue to expand his desire for tailoring. Similar to what he’s done as part of his LV2 collaborations with Louis Vuitton and Virgil Abloh, Nigo once again lets his passion for British tailoring and 1950s/1960s-era subcultures shine. It isn’t hard to spot the lasting influence of Mod style in several looks, especially with the tiger-striped fur hood in the Kenzo-fied iteration of the M-51 parka.
Longtime BAPE heads will know this certainly isn’t the first time Nigo’s explored the finer side of menswear. About a decade ago as BAPE was on the downturn, Nigo partnered with tenured Japanese retailer United Arrows on a line called Mr. Bathing Ape.
As the name suggests, it was a more grown-up version of the label, veering as far from streetwear as possible. Unlike the ivy league-inspired three-button sack suits shown at Kenzo, the Mr. Bathing Ape influences skewed specifically towards British tailoring, favoring cleaner lines and more precise cuts. Pinstripes meant business, and it’s a trip to see menswear gods like Motofumi “Poggy the Man” Kogi in the accompanying lookbook.
It went on for a few seasons and even debuted on MR PORTER for its worldwide release, becoming known for accessories like ties done up in BAPE’s signature camo, and benchmade shoes like brogues featuring the BAPEsta star on the side, or loafers with a playful mustache across the leather strip.
That fascination with artisanal footwear certainly hasn’t slowed down for Nigo. One of Nigo’s first Human Made footwear collabs wasn’t a sneaker at all. Instead, he teamed up with George Cox, a British footwear company known for its creeper shoes with pointed toes and D-ring eyelets.
That particular pair has become a go-to for Nigo, who’s frequently spotted wearing the tan versions. But he switched it up for his Kenzo show, even kitting out a few of his famous friends with a cleaner, updated version with an exaggerated sole done by the house.
Of course, as an avid fan of Red Wing Boots (not the kind Kanye West’s recently been spotted wearing, but more of the true heritage models), it also wasn’t surprising to see Nigo reinterpret the classic moc shape in his collection. It dovetails with a new classic menswear revival, where plenty of dedicated sneaker guys are seeing why they need to add a pair of hard-wearing boots in their rotation. Call it the Nigo effect if you want, but it’s really just a testament to how talented he is at timing.
Another great read about a legend. Thanks as always for the hard work.
Thanks for this. You point about this really being a collab between Nigo and Kenzo is spot on! Not unlike when Raf went to Calvin Klein, even though that didn't work out on a mass commercial scale. *IF* a similar collection was shown and we did not know it was Nigo, would we have celebrated it the same? Or was it the Nigo effect - including the reason why that front row was so well attended - in full effect?