The history of Fujiwara and Nigo: or how two Japanese became the popes of Japanese fashion (and the world)

How something becomes trendy? fashion trends change so fast that it’s hard knowing from where it’s exactly comes. However, As one’s known, it’s basically celebrities who starts trends. Nevertheless, there seem to be some exceptions. Nigo’s (former owner of Bape) and Hiroshi Fuijiwara ( owner of Fragment Design) are one of those people. Howard Becker with his analyses of the art world provides us some clues to understand how some people, that appears being completely anonymous, can manage to be trendy.

What is the “art world”

This art world is composed by humans and materials resources that helps the artist to produce; the distribution network; and conventions.

All these actors have a “cooperative activity, organized via their joint knowledge of conventional means of doing things, produces the kind of art works the art world is noted for” (p.10 Art World). The conventions of the artworld are administrated by tastemakers and they are influenced by the political and social environment.

Also, it is important to notice that in the artworld, the distributors put pressure on the artist in the way that they will carry only the artwork that the distribution network is ready to carry so that the artist has to adapt his work to fit the distribution system.

To make It clearer, I’ve drawn a scheme that would represent the art world according to this definition*.

*The yellow color represent the humans and materials resources and the purple one is the distribution network

Art world in the fashion industry

Concerning the distribution network, it’s mostly composed by retailers. In the fashion industry, the retailers put pressure on the designer because they are those who choose which product of the collection will be sell in their shops. Therefore, the designer must create clothes that retailers would like to have.

In this industry, tastemakers have a very important role in defining what is fashionable or not. In my opinion, tastemakers are made up of all content creators, from instagramers and youtubers to fashion journalists. Celebrities are also tastemakers.

Here Is the scheme of the “Art world of fashion” that I made.

I will now use this scheme to understand how Japanese streetwear designers, Fujiwara Hiroshi and Tomoaki Nagao (Nigo) have become more and more popular.

Art world in Japan: A context in the nineties that has helped Fujiwara and Nagao to be famous

The first one is the debut of Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto at Paris Fashion Week, whose arrival in the fashion capital brought the world’s spotlight on the Japanese country and its designers. At the same time, the growing popularity of rap as a mainstream music genre paved the way for the future streetwear designers who would appear a few years later. In addition to this, the development of world trade linked to the end of the cold war facilitated the export of Japanese streetwear to the world. Lastly, it’s important to know that America has a long going influence over Japan, which implies that Japanese have an adulation for the United States.

However, to make a name for yourself in the world, you must first be known in your own country, and to do this in Japan it is essential to have the fashion media in your pocket.

The importance of fashion media in Japan

Of course, it is thanks to these same magazines that Hiroshi Fujiwara and Nigo managed to make a name for themselves in Japan before shining over the world. (1200×800) (
(161) Pinterest

Fujiwara, Nigo and Jun Takashi, the free riders of those global changes

Thanks to his New York and London connections, the young Hiroshi made a name for himself in Tokyo and, with a friend, he developed the “Last Orgy” column in Takarajima magazine, where he talked about all his favourite new releases of what we call now Street Culture, that comes straight from these two cities where rap and rock were making Western youth vibrate. This monopoly of the Street Culture allowed Fujiwara to become a trendsetter in this field. So, when he launched his first brand, Goodenough, he met with immediate success. Building on this initial success, he later opened “Nowhere”, a shop with Jun Takahashi and Nigo, which sold their first collections of their respective brands, Undercover and A bathing Ape (bape). For Nigo, Joining Fujiwara’s side was the milestone that marked the debut of his international career.

Nigo, From national to multinational star

By giving his clothes to national stars such as Scha Dara Parr or the band EAST END X YURI, Nagao increased his reputation in Japan. He also developed his influence among music fans outside of Japan by dressing London trip hop label boss Mo Max as well as DJ shadow and Money Mark. Dressing the music moguls earned him the title of “most exclusive limited-edition goods” according to an article of the New York Times that appeared in august 1999 (see p187 Ametora the meaning of style).

But Nagao still couldn’t get enough. He decided to continue Bape’s expansion later in 1999 by opening his first shop outside of Japan, in Hong Kong, which allowed him to reach out to the Asian fashion community. From there, Bape’s reputation continue grewing until it reached its current position.

Nigo and fujiwara, the trablazers of a new artworld

Down below, you can see the art world concept applied to Japanese street fashion

In conclusion, it can be said that Howard Becker’s view of the art system is useful for analysing the fashion world. However, the fact that I have used another scientist’s summary to create a diagram of the art world has led me to be less precise on some points, such as the definition of what H. Beckers means by the “human and material resources” that make up the art world. Moreover, in a world where newspapers have less and less power, one can wonders to what extent Japanese magazines are still forging fashion trends in the country.



Fashion ! Go global

Fashion ! Anti fashion

Ametora the meaning of style, From Harajuku to the world



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Dylan Hamada

College student at iaelyon, i also post on instagram at @f2shiong2ek