Nigo’s Takeover as Creative Director of KENZO

With Nigo’s appointment as creative director back in September, you couldn’t miss the buzz that surrounded the first AW22 collection in Paris. Known as the streetwear guru with decades of success a star-studded front row showed support for the new direction of Kenzo. Looking at Nigo and his takeover here’s is what you need to know.

Founded in 1970s Paris by Japanese designer Kenzo Takada, KENZO became known as the label that fused Japanese style with European design, craft and construction.


Nigo announced the move with the caption; ‘I was born in the year that Takada Kenzo san opened his first store in Paris. We both graduated from the same fashion school in Tokyo. In 1993, the year that KENZO joined the LVMH Group, I started my career in fashion. Kenzo san’s approach to creating originality was through his understanding of many different cultures. It is also the essence of my own philosophy of creativity.’ Highlighting the obvious similarities between Nigo and Kenzo’s founder Takada Kenzo. Takada through the 80s and 90s elevated his brand by promoting an east-meets-west aesthetic with bold colours and prints. Promoting his Japanese influences he paved the way for other designers, designers such as Nigo.

Born Tomoaki Nagao, Nigo’s career spans 30 years with forward-thinking creative leadership, cutting-edge design and the ability to overall navigate and weather the industry storms. Known in his younger days for partying in Toyko clubs and being a wannabe Dj he attended Bunka Fashion College where he iconically said he learnt nothing. Originally launching A Bathing Ape (originally named A Bathing Ape in Lukewarm Water) in 1993 the brand referenced Japanese colloquialism and consumption-obsession Japan.

BAPE saw huge successes with the likes of The Notorious B.I.G and Mo’Wax record label boss James Lavelle endorsing the brand. Cleverly streamlining the distribution to one store in Toyko and only fulfilling 10% of demand Nigo managed to maintain desirability for decades.


In 2003 Nigo launched Icecream and Billionaire Boys Club alongside Pharrell Williams and later launched Human Made in 2010 alongside sk8thing, both known for their luxury streetwear aesthetic. Managing to turn all brands into somewhat of a cult movement, his designs have always embraced colour and print, making them easily recognisable much like Kenzo clothing.

Moving away from the obvious comparisons between the Japanese designers, Nigo’s collaborations with household names such as Virgil Abloh and Kim Jones cemented his love for collaboration and contact book connections. The announcement came a few months after Nigo’s second collaboration with Abloh for Louis Vuitton menswear, which saw the refined form, kimono-inspired shirting and Japanese streetwear references.


Vogue Runway

With Nigo at the wheel, Kenzo has a chance to recapture its iconic persona; creating the buzz of Leon and Lim, but with a mature take on Takada’s aesthetic. Catering toward a younger, more streetwear-literate audience, the brand has had a facelift with the ‘Poppy’ graphic. The AW22 show at Galerie Vivienne, with Kanye West, Pharell Williams, Julia Fox and Tyler The Creator sitting on the sidelines introduced the reinvented poppy emblem. The bright red floral made its debut in various sizes detailed and enlarged on boxy jackets, vested overalls and pageboy caps.

So it’s like 1950s and ’60s clothing remade in the ’80s, but through the lens of the 2020s. – Williams | Vogue 

All of the denim in the collection was from Japan, commenting that European factories make garments too ‘clean’ for his aesthetic. The punchy floral print of calligraphic strokes was a sketch taken from Nigo’s current Aka-e teacher, a traditional ceramics style known for its vivid red colour. Signifying a new era for Kenzo, we can’t wait to see what the next season hold’s for the fashion house. 

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Written by Holly Thompson

Featured Image Credit – @nigo 

Holly Thompson

Holly Thompson

Writer and expert