So what’s Nigo, the founder of A Bathing Ape, up to now? Well, according to the slogan of his now 7 year old brand, he’s making futuristic clothing for futuristic teenagers.
If you haven’t seen this brand before, don’t spend your time being surprised or skeptical. Whatever Nigo sets out to do is very much worth your while and this is no exception. In fact, it may be Nigo’s magnum opus when considering his capabilities as a designer and clothing creator.
Human Made began in 2010 when a somewhat disenfranchised and as he puts it, selfish, Nigo decided he wanted to make clothing that he would want to wear. This could not possibly be done in A Bathing Ape which was by this point a seasoned veteran of the industry. It’s sale allowed Nigo to pursue Human Made not so much as a brand, but as a passion project a lifetime in the making.
The personal and introspective tone of Human Made was established immediately with the first collection, asking the buyer “Where are you in the 2010’s?” It was a sort of rhetorical question seemingly designed to spur self-reflection not so much in the consumer, but in Nigo himself as he prepared to undertake the cultivation of a brand so strikingly different from the likes of BAPE and BBC which had defined his success.
The obvious difference between Human Made and Nigo’s previous brands was the aesthetic. While BAPE and BBC were part of the rapper’s uniform during the great Ice Age of the 2000’s, Human Made streamed to take influence from a completely different cultural sphere and time period altogether. If you were to look at the clothing with no background to fashion, it’d look as something you could potentially find in a thrift store or in the corner of your grandfather’s closet. And there’d be little chance of you being able to tell that the same mind behind A Bathing Ape was making Human Made.
Nigo has said that the name hints at stages of an evolution, from ape to human. Indeed, in that sense, a considerable amount more of artistic thought has gone into Human Made than it’s previous brutish counterpart. While BAPE may have taught Nigo the in’s and out’s of fashion as a business, he sees Human Made as being a vehicle to now learn fashion as an art.
A majority of the pieces found populating the initial collections were in fact inspired by items in Nigo’s own closet. He has always maintained a deep appreciation for vintage and second-hand clothing. In one interview, he recalled the reaction that his mother had when he bought his first vintage denim jacket at the age of 15. She couldn’t understand the reasoning behind buying a worn-out and outdated piece of clothing, but that reasoning is also what helps Human Made stand out in the current streetwear market. Nigo’s deep seated appreciation for workwear, Americana, and Japanese culture along with an almost obsessive attention to even the most trivial of details combined to become a hallmark of the brand.
In order to maintain that level of scrutinizing detail, Human Made has focused as much on the construction of it’s pieces as it has on their final product. For Human Made, it can be said that a print on the shirt is only second to the shirts stitching or fitment.
Often times it is necessary to procure antique machinery in order to be able to manufacture in a way that holds true to Human Made’s modus operandi. In that sense, the brand has served as a sort of time machine that has given lost or obsolete technology and long-gone trends another go at youth of today.
The austere limitations in the design process are necessary in order to avoid diluting the message Human Made is trying to achieve. It’s success in doing so thus far is in part due to the contribution of Warehouse, a renowned Osaka-based denim company who’s purpose is “an investigation of limitless detail.” This partnership works under the understanding that they have not set out to replicate the vintage garments from which the inspiration of the brand is drawn, but instead to create clothes that attempt to evoke a certain character that vintage clothing inherently has.
This has made it difficult for the collections to follow typical fashion production cycles. Out of a potential 100 designs, only maybe 50 will be considered for production due to the difficulties associated with finding the correct fabrics and manufacturing tools. And out of those designs, only a few units for each will be made in order to not compromise the artisinal quality of the garments. That reality has not stopped the proliferation of the brand. It has released it’s Season 12 offering just this past summer with a majority of items promptly selling out.
Despite it’s relative anonymity in the current streetwear climate, Human Made has worked with the likes of Coca Cola, Dickies and HYPEBEAST. The most recent collaboration is a ten-year anniversary capsule with Haven, a Canadian boutique catering to consumers with an appreciation for the more mature palettes of streewear.
Nigo has said that he ultimately lacks any solid business direction for Human Made, which gives some context to his eclectic range of collaborations so far. He acknowledges that what he’s doing with his new brand has a much smaller appeal than what he did with his previous endeavors. But the fact that it is going six years strong now is a testament to the parallel between the quality of its product and the quality of its purpose.
No one can say for certain where Human Made will go seeing as even Nigo doesn’t know. He has said he wants to focus more-so on the creation of clothing than the expansion or growth of a business. And when a mind such as his sets out to do that, then everyone stands to benefit.
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