ape headAuthors: Adrian Sossna, Yemin Wang, and Tim Craig
Published August 2016.
Length: 12 pages (plus exhibits)

At its height, the Japanese luxury streetwear brand BAPE was the must-have item for anyone that mattered in street culture. Rappers used the brand heavily and its iconic camouflage print made frequent appearances in hip-hop videos and concerts. BAPE was also profitable, combining the designs of founder Nigo with an exclusivity strategy based on scarcity: supply was carefully limited and prices were high. But when Nigo abandoned exclusivity to go mainstream, the BAPE brand lost its “cool” and profit turned to loss, forcing Nigo to sell his company to Chinese fashion conglomerate I.T Apparels for a shockingly low price.

The BAPE case illustrates what can happen when artistic talent and ambition is not accompanied by sound business skills. (The bankruptcy of Osamu Tezuka’s anime studio Mushi Production is another example.) Can I.T turn the BAPE brand around after its dramatic rise and fall in the hands of its founder?

Topics: Fashion, Brand management, Product positioning, Artist as businessperson