What is there to say about NIGO that hasn’t been repeated a million times before? The designer/director/collector/collaborator/pioneer can be described by so many adjectives that it makes no sense to refer to him as anything other than, simply, NIGO. However, you can now add “award winning” to his list of titles.
On September 19, NIGO scored perhaps Japan’s biggest award in fashion, the Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix Award. Presented by The Mainichi Shimbun (literally, “daily newspaper”), which itself has been around for 100 years as of 2022, the Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and what better way than to ‘give a king his crown?
NIGO took home the 2022 Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix, a mark given to the designer, manager or executive who has “achieved the most outstanding results in… fashion” for the year, according to the Grand Prix’s Japanese website Mainichi Fashion.
The awards ceremony is technically part of Tokyo’s Rakuten Fashion Week, though that calendar officially ended on September 3 and has been handed out since 1983, when the grand prize went to the likes of COMME des GARÇONS founder Rei Kawakubo, the late Issey Miyake and ZUCCa Designer Akira Onozuka.
However, NIGO was in person at the 2022 ceremony to accept his award, standing alongside fellow winners Fumie Tanaka, a womenswear designer who received the “newcomer” award; designer Michiko Kitamura, whose resume includes stints with Kawakubo and films like Ichi the killer; the recycling brand “Denim de Mirai ～ Denim Project ～” (yes, that’s the whole name) and Japanese singer Yumi Matsutoya.
NIGO, who won the big prize for his work as creative director of KENZO, gave a shout-out to Virgil Abloh in his acceptance speech, recalling his now decades-long streetwear origins as opposed to the luxury realms he now traffics in.
It’s pretty impressive to think about NIGO’s career trajectory, from opening new Harajuku boutiques with UNDERCOVER’s Jun Takahashi and following Hiroshi Fujiwara to reforming pioneering luxury label KENZO and stepping in to direct campaigns for big ones like Levi’s.
His HUMAN MADE brand is still very big, too, and NIGO’s vast collection of vintage workwear is the subject of a new exhibition at Tokyo’s Bunka Museum, while his debut KENZO collection just launched in stores after a series of high-profile landings.
Suffice it to say, 30 years later, NIGO is much more than a “streetwear” designer. This Mainichi Fashion Award, nominally given by Japanese fashion makers to renowned designers such as Tomo Koizumi and Kunihiko Morinaga of ANREALAGE, is a real test.