A Stronger Ape?

Just a week after our only A Bathing Ape store announced its impending closure, the news now is that they’re embarking on an expansion drive. But not here

The closure of A Bathing Ape (Bape) at The Mandarin Gallery on 18 June 2021 would not be a sign that the brand is approaching any semblance of doomsday. There is, it seems, a long life ahead for the Ape. According to recent media editorials, private equity firm CVC Capital Partners—“co-investor” in Bape—has “successfully completed an investment” in the streetwear brand. The value of that investment is not announced. Bape’s Japanese company Nowhere Co was acquired by the I.T Group (the company behind the also-now-closed i.t multi-label store) in 2011 for what has been described as a bargain: US$2.8 million, which, according to the The Wall Street Journal, amounted to a 90% stake. Founder Tomoaki Nagao (aka Nigo) stayed on for the following two years to help with the transition. It is not known who ran the design studio thereafter or if a creative director was ever installed.

Last December, it was announced that I.T Group founder and chairman Sham Kar Wai has enlisted CVC to take Bape private. CVC’s fashion portfolio includes Breitling and Spain’s Tandem (manufacturer and retailer of the brand Springfield, once available in Isetan here). At around that time, Yahoo News informed that I.T was “delisted from Hong Kong Stock Exchange for US$168 million as it struggled with getting its online operations up to speed”. Despite its shoppable e-commerce platform, I.T curiously does not deliver outside of Hong Kong and China. According to the South China Morning Post, the retailer “reported a net loss of HK$337 million for the six months ended August 2020, a 373 per cent jump from HK$71.2 million a year ago”. It is not unreasonable to assume that A Bathing Ape was part of those losses.

Although it is widely said that Bape has lost much of its appeal and is no longer as cool as it once was, when it became inspiration behind other streetwear labels such as Pharrell Williams’s Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, both aided by Mr Nagao in their conception, Mr Sham and CVC seem to believe that there is still potential in the 28-year-old A Bathing Ape. In a press statement, Mr Sham said, “I take great pride in the success of the brand to date, which has been thanks to the commitment of our leadership and staff. CVC is the right partner to support the transformation of BAPE as we focus on our long-term growth.” Further reports indicated that “CVC will support the expansion of the business, both online and geographically”. Markets cited include China, the United States, and Europe. There is no mention of the continued presence of A Bathing Ape here or or anywhere in Southeast Asia. It is possible that the Ape, in a bath or not, would’nt be returning.

Photo: Chin Boh Kay

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