Led by designer NIGO, A Bathing Ape, or BAPE, has become one of the most successful brands to come out of the Japanese streetwear wave in the 90s/early 00s that became popularised worldwide thanks to the support of American rapper and hip hop stars such as Jay Z, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. Its instantly recognizable graphics, from Baby Milo to its loud camo print, and design elements, such as the zipper detailing that closed up all the way at the hood, helped push BAPE to become one of the most coveted and hyped brands within streetwear.
Its cultural success could not have happened without one thing though: collaborations. Known as the brand worn by rappers, BAPE has collaborated with artists such Big Sean, Pusha T and Flatbush Zombies, as well as tapping other non-fashion collaborators such as the KAWS artist Brian Donelley. From hitting up some of the hottest streetwear labels, such as Pharrell’s BBC, to tapping into homewear, BAPE became a leading face of the hypebeast movement. Here are 5 of our favourite collaborations that have made BAPE an international cultural phenomenon.
BAPE X KAWS
One of BAPE’s earlier link ups was with the American artist Brian Donelley, most known under the name of KAWS. Dating back to FW05, the collaboration was part of BAPE’s seasonal collection, which also had a collaboration with Marvel. The BAPE x KAWS pieces include a range of t-shirts that merge BAPE’s recognizable characters with KAWS’ playful ‘X’ figurines, with The Bathing Ape receiving the ‘X’ eyes treatment, notably on a white and grey long tee.
The two also released a pair of sneakers together in white and grey, as well as featuring red detailing on the laces and on BAPE’s star logo scattered across the shoe. Ever since, the two have collaborated together, notably for SS10 which offered the Dissected Milo Companion t-shirt. The character was also turned into a KAWS-style 3D Medicom toy in three different colourways, becoming figurine collectors’ dream item, now selling on Sotheby’s for over $2,000.
BAPE X NINTENDO
The reason why BAPE has become an integral part of pop culture and one of the most successful brands to come out of the streetwear Japanese wave is because of its ability to brand outside of fashion. Not only has BAPE put itself on the map by tapping into the world of American hip-hop, it has also landed in our own hands by collaborating with fellow Japanese brand Nintendo on one of our favourite gaming consoles: the DS.
Initially released in 2004, the Nintendo DS became an intrinsic part of our childhoods, and by 2008, BAPE had become a part of the story. The collaborative console was decorated with BAPE logos mixed in with Mario Kart graphics and was released alongside an apparel line that featured zip-up hoodies, crew neck and tees with the same motifs. The collaboration was such a success that later that year, the two released the DS Lite Gold Edition, where the graphics were seen in an all-white format. It’s no surprise that this pairing became a success, merging together the world of streetwear and gaming.
BAPE X MODERNICA
Tapping into another non-fashion brand, BAPE ventured into the world of homeware when it collaborated with the L.A.-based furniture brand Modernica in 2009. Together, the two blended a classic style, the Case Study Side Chair, originally designed in 1984 for Herman Miller, with BAPE’s brash signature camo motif. NIGO has always been one to revisit established styles and design through a contemporary lens, so this collaboration felt like a natural extension to the BAPE universe, which hypebeasts were eager to decorate their homes with.
As with most collaborations undertaken by BAPE, this was not the only time the two worked together. After the success of its first Case Study Side Chair, BAPE and Modernica revised the seat in numerous ways, as well as working on other furniture pieces such as metal side table and a wooden coffee table. In 2019, the two created the limited edition Fiber Side Chair, which was sold for $700 exclusively at BAPE’s L.A. flagship store to celebrate one year since its opening, which also happened to be the 10 year anniversary since the first BAPE x Modernica collaboration.
BAPE X KID CUDI
The Japanese brand has collaborated with many artists such as Kanye West, Drake’s OVO, Lil Wayne, Lil Yachty… The list goes on. But one collaboration with an artist that stands out is the one with Kid Cudi. Having once been a BAPE employee in its NYC SoHo flagship store, Kid Cudi and NIGO’s long-standing relationship has stood the test of time, both being there for one another at pivotal moments in their respective careers. The original collaboration dates back to 2009, just after Kid Cudi dropped his first album “Man On The Moon: The End Of Day”. Together, the two created a range of t-shirts part of the Baby Milo range, featuring the emblematic monkey graphic as well as a rendition of Kid Cudi in the same graphic style.
The collaborative relationship has kept on going to this day, with a limited edition t-shirt range for ComplexCon in 2016 that remains to this day some of their most coveted pieces, resiling for over thousands of dollars. Cudi and NIGO most recently came back together in 2021 to create BAPE’s largest collaborative collection with an artist, featuring 20 pieces. The garments themselves were presented in a special BAPE camo print titled “INTERGALACTIC” and featured both partners’ classic design elements such as the Shark and Tiger motifs and the “CUDI STA” branding. Together the two have created a symbiotic relationship that has placed them both in the eye of hip hop and streetwear’s finest.
BAPE X BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB
Pharrell and NIGO have held a two-decade long friendship and business partnership ever since their first meeting through their mutual friend Jacob ‘The Jeweler’. The two hit it off instantly and NIGO co-founded Pharrell’s apparel brand Billionaire Boys Club in 2003. It only makes sense that BBC and BAPE would collaborate on multiple occasions, given their similar aesthetics and close relationship. What is surprising, is that their first official collaboration came out in 2011, 8 years after the creation of BBC. The collection featured an array of tees that cross-designed its aesthetics, with the BBC logo found in BAPE’s classic camo print and Baby Milo can be seen in the Ice Cream emblem.
While this was their first official collaboration together, both NIGO and Pharrell have been designing for one another, notably in 2006 where Pharrell designed BAPE’s Roadsta sneaker silhouettes. Having known each other during the early days of streetwear and its explosion into popular culture thanks to the rap and hip hop stars sporting it, Pharrell and NIGO have both progressed immensely in the fashion industry. Now, NIGO is creative director of KENZO and Pharrell has just been appointed creative director at Louis Vuitton. Considering their history, a KENZO x Louis Vuitton collaboration could potentially be on its way.
More on CULTED