To celebrate Nigo’s limited-edition vintage label, Human Made, being sold abroad for the first time, NOWNESS trailed the Japanese streetwear designer as he handpicked items for his personal collection at London emporium The Vintage Showroom. The force behind cult brand A Bathing Ape, as well as a long list of distinguished collaborations, Tokyo-based Nigo is a long-term vintage enthusiast, citing the rockabilly subculture he encountered as a teenager and 50s American rock and roll icons as prime influences. He brings the same attention to scouring clothing racks as he does to designing Mr Bathing Ape, the formal line he launched earlier this year to put his signature on Savile Row tailoring. “What’s interesting now is that there are more people in Europe who are interested in American vintage clothing,” says the designer, whose new Human Made collection is entirely pre-1960s Americana-inspired. Here Nigo reveals the hidden details that distinguish a collector's item.Archival selection
Generally, I’m only interested in things up until 1950. It’s hard to explain how I select pieces. From a vintage-history viewpoint it’s a weird selection, but it’s just the things that speak to me most.
There are a lot of fakes around at the moment; things with complicated embroidery are often faked. It’s difficult to tell a real one from a fake one. You have to have seen hundreds of examples, and after a while your eye gets used to it.
I don’t tend to search for things because I like the idea that you come across something and decide at that time if you like it or not. But I want a Lee cowboy jacket, a denim jacket with blanket lining. I found one but it was damaged, and the dealer had repaired it so I couldn’t buy it.
The first time I ever bought a vintage garment I was 15. It was a Levi’s Type 2 jacket. The thing was shredded, falling to pieces. My mum was totally pissed off and couldn’t imagine that I’d bought a jacket with holes in it. She gave me hell for it. I’ve still got the jacket now.
I didn’t want to make anything for Human Made without actually having the garment to look at, inspect and see how it’s put together. Nothing has come from photographs. Pretty much everything is from my own collection, but rearranged.
My favorite places are in Japan because I think they have the most depth, the most stock. I’d recommend Suntrap
. The culture of collection, particularly American vintage work wear, was pretty much made in Japan. A lot of the famous American dealers actually come and buy stuff back from Japan.