At the beginning of December of last year, about 10 weeks after taking over as artistic director of French luxury brand Kenzo, Japanese fashion designer Nigo flew by private jet from Paris to New York, where he went directly to the throne. Midtown Manhattan townhouse by high-end jeweler Jacob & Company This is a familiar pilgrimage for the street fashion icon, whose craving for custom necklaces with diamond-encrusted pendants has driven Jacob. became “The Jeweler” Arabo is his unofficial biographer. Chronicling Nigo’s career begins with fist-sized ape-head necklaces inspired by A Bathing Ape, the culture-transforming streetwear brand Nigo founded in Harajuku’s neighborhood of Harajuku. Tokyo in 1993. Then there were jeweled dollar signs commemorating the Billionaire Boys Club brand he co-founded. with superstar producer Pharrell Williams a decade later. To celebrate Human Made, the light, casual clothing line he launched in 2010, Jacob crafted a range of polar bears, ducks and other cartoon characters cast in diamonds and white gold. .
As Nigo strolls the length of Jacob & Co’s tunnel-like showroom, bathed in light strong enough to reveal flaws in any gem, it’s clear why LVMH, the company Kenzo’s mother, believes the same in the appeal of the young for 50 years – ex-designer. Wearing jeans, a white hoodie and a denim jacket, Nigo arrives to find Lil Uzi Vert waiting for him. A$AP Rocky soon after. Then there was record label executive Steven Victor, who summoned the film crew for an impromptu music video shoot to promote the album. I know Nigo, a pandemic project that will blossom into one of the more exciting hip-hop records of 2022. The album features 11 tracks, all curated by Nigo, with new music by Pusha T; Kid Cudi; Tyler, the Creator; and several other rappers with connections to the streetwear icon that has become a sort of hip-hop vibrancy. However, the ultimate flexibility belongs to Nigo, who has shown real influence by using the occasion of his new album to reunite, for the first time since 2009, Clipse and Neptunes – a duo rap defunct and a rarely active production team, brought together once again by their favorite fashion designer.
Pusha T told me in an email. “His ability to be influential over a long period of time is unprecedented and speaks to his appreciation and love for the culture.”
His balanced music video for Kenzo has a sense of familiarity — first appearing in Nigo two decades ago, when A Bathing Ape exploded in the US. It was immediately well received by hip-hop celebrities such as Jay-Z, Pharrell, Busta Rhymes and Kanye West, who sought out the designer while visiting Tokyo. “I thought, Oh, here we go again,” Nigo said.
Of course, the role of Kenzo presents a novel challenge. For the first time in his long career, the brand will rise or fall based on his creative decisions that are not his own. Instead, the designer traded pure invention for creativity under the leadership of an iconic Parisian fashion house, several months older than him. Kenzo Takada, the brand’s founder, remains the guiding light at 18 rue Vivienne, despite quitting from the company in 1999. Takada’s recent death, in October 2020, made Nigo special noting the need to balance his own creative vision with his level of loyalty to his deceased countryman.