Nigö Built His Net Worth With the BAPE Apparel Brand
Nigö has amassed a net worth in the millions through various urban clothing brands he has built over the years, including A Bathing Ape (BAPE).
The Japanese brand BAPE, short for A Bathing Ape, is being sued by Nike for allegedly copying some of Nike’s best-selling sneaker designs. BAPE is a popular streetwear brand founded by Japanese fashion designer, disc jockey (DJ), and music producer Nigö.
What is Nigö’s net worth?
Nigö has amassed a net worth estimated at about $20 million through various urban clothing brands he has built over the years. BAPE was his first brand, founded in 1993 in Tokyo, Japan.
Nigö, whose birthname is Tomoaki Nagao, became interested in fashion through the pages of a Japanese men’s fashion magazine called Popeye. He went on to study fashion editing at the Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo and afterward got a job at Popeye, the very magazine he poured over as a child.
Tomoaki Nagao, aka Nigö
Fashion designer, DJ, and music producer
Net worth: $20 Million
Tomoaki Nagao is the Japanese fashion designer known as Nigö. He launched the popular streetwear brand A Bathing Ape, or BAPE, in 1993. Nike recently filed a lawsuit against the BAPE brand, accusing it of trademark infringement for the designs on some of its sneakers. Nigö is no longer involved with the brand, which is now owned by Hong Kong fashion conglomerate, I.T Group.
Education: Bunka Fashion College
Current occupation: Kenzo Artistic Director
Nigö was working at the magazine as a fashion journalist when he was introduced to Hiroshi Fujiwara, who is often considered the "Godfather of Streetwear." The two men became friends, leading to Nagao’s nickname, “Nigö,” which means “number two” in Japanese.
In 1993, Nigö opened the NOWHERE t-shirt shop in Tokyo’s Harajuku district. Sales at the shop were reportedly pretty slow until Nigö introduced a line of BAPE t-shirts and camouflage hoodies inspired by his love for the 1968 movie, Planet of the Apes.
In a 2006 interview with CNN Asia, Nigö said the name “A Bathing Ape” was a sarcastic reference to the Japanese saying “a bathing ape in lukewarm water,” which refers to a spoiled and pampered younger generation.
The BAPE brand quickly became popular with young adults and celebrities alike. Hip-hop celebrities such as Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, and Jay Z have all been known to wear BAPE apparel.
Nigö released the Bapesta sneaker in 2002, and the resemblance the shoe had to Nike’s Air Force 1 has been pointed out repeatedly by various media outlets. Instead of the Nike trademark Swoosh, the Bapesta has a star and lightning bolt logo.
Does Nigö still own BAPE?
Nigö no longer owns the BAPE brand. The Hong Kong fashion conglomerate I.T Group bought a majority stake in the brand in 2011 for about $2.8 million. Nigö stayed as creative director for the brand for two years.
BAPE isn’t Nigö's only venture into streetwear. In 2003, he partnered with rapper Pharrell Williams and Reebok to create the Billionaire Boys Club streetwear label, including Ice Cream footwear. Nigö also launched his new Human Made clothing line in 2010.
What is Nigö doing now?
Nigö has been the artistic director for KENZO since September 2021. He is also active in the music scene as a DJ for the Japanese hip-hop group Teriyaki Boys.
He has released two albums – Ape Sounds in 2000, and I Know Nigö! in 2022. On the I Know Nigö! album, he collaborated with musicians ASAP Rocky, Kid Cudi, Pusha T, and Tyler, the Creator.