NIGO is fashion’s leading streetwear guru and the creative director of UNIQLO’s UT. KAWS is one of the world’s leading contemporary artists. Naturally, the two are friends and when it comes to art and culture they both have a lot to say.

Their friendship began in 1997 when KAWS first visited Tokyo. 
“At the time ’90s streetwear style was emerging from the skate world and it blew my mind to see what NIGO was doing. There weren’t any other brands like his around,” KAWS recalls. NIGO was equally impressed. “He was making art on bus stops and phone booths. I knew of other graffiti artists, but I thought he was on a different level.” 

The rules of both fashion and art were in the process of being broken. It’s from this shared point-of-view that their partnership began. Since their first collaboration for KAWS’s show in Tokyo in 2001, they’ve worked together on numerous projects but the newest is UT. Every season NIGO curates a selection of graphic T-Shirts showcasing everything from manga to music to iconic cartoon characters, not unlike those KAWS has in his art. “I wanted to do something that has a big impact in 2016,” NIGO explains. “I thought KAWS would be a great fit but I wasn’t sure if he was going to say yes.” 

It was the friendship and the accessibility of the brand that was appealing to KAWS. “I have done so many things on very limited levels, and it is nice to change for a moment and do something accessible everywhere. And I enjoy it when I trust somebody’s visions and motives.” 

The pair were photographed at KAWS’s Brooklyn studio as the artist prepared for an upcoming exhibition.

Their approaches to other areas of culture are often starkly different. KAWS appreciates music, but he says he’s not a connoisseur. Alternatively, NIGO takes music quite seriously. “When I listen to music from the ’50s, I play it through a radio from that era. Ultimately, mastering is done for the common means of listening to music at that time. So it would be the best way to listen to it.” Fashion is a huge component in what NIGO does, but KAWS likes the idea of wearing the same outfit everyday. 

But there is a common thread in how they see culture in the context of time. “Whenever you mix fashion and music, you get culture,” NIGO says. “Every era has a type of music of significance. For instance, you see rockabilly in the ’50s, mods in the ’60s, punk in the ’70s. Music is always followed by fashion and when the two link up, it will remain as culture.” 

To KAWS, culture is an “accumulation of people, experiences, and time. When I see a piece of art, I think of where these images originate from, how they are passed on from generations, and how they get transformed and reinvented and put into the world again.”

“When I see a piece of art, I think of where these images originate from, how they are passed on from generations, and how they get transformed and reinvented and put into the world again.” – KAWS
KAWS began his career as an artist on the streets of New York making paintings without permission on billboard and bus stop advertisements. His subversive approach steadily drew wide acclaim and today he is celebrated by the world’s top art galleries, museums, and collectors.

NIGO is known throughout the fashion industry as the leading streetwear authority. Having worked on his own label as well as helping celebrity friends with theirs, his work bridges the gap between music and fashion. NIGO is currently the creative director of UT.
NIGO wears UT KAWS Graphic T-Shirt