Heron Preston's relationship with Bape isn't a new one. In fact, Preston was introduced to the Japanese streetwear brand long before the vast majority of his peers. Arriving in the US via hip-hop personalities like Pharrell Williams, The Clipse and even Ye (previously Kanye West), Bape was always a brand worn by industry figureheads in the know - all of which were the first to wear the iconic designs outside of Japan. With Bape founder NIGO making his debut as creative director for Kenzo earlier this year, fashion has come full circle. 'Growing up through the era of NIGO and Bape, I was observing and absorbing the energy and taste levels he was introducing into streetwear. He had this special touch', recalled Preston in a statement on his early memories of the brand. These very cult classics, sported by Williams, Ye and others, have gone on to inform Heron Preston's latest and most personal collaboration to date.
With Preston staying true to his own 'instant language' design principle, the streetwear icon has reimagined classics like Bape's SHARK HOODIES, BAPE® CAMO, APE HEAD and BAPESTA styles while also faithfully preserving the heritage and history of each of the garments by simply adding to them, rather than transforming. Graphic APE HEAD t-shirts have been designed as a purposeful nod to Bape's early screen print designs from the late 90s; in another replica detail, the heads are positioned across the ribbed neckline on the shirt, as NIGO originally intended.
In 2015, Preston created his own homage to Bape - without the brand's official permission - with his Street Sweeper sneaker design. Remixing Nike's Air Force 1 by replacing the swoosh with a custom BAPESTA logo monogram fabric, the concept travelled around the internet and subsequently the globe, despite only 10 styles ever produced and Bape representatives took note. Four years later, in 2019, Preston received a call from Bape to do an official collaboration together.
In 2017, GQ published an article declaring 'Heron Preston has the best résumé in streetwear', and who can disagree? Hailing the mix match aesthetic that's moved fashion away from its 'pigeonholed' days, Preston has always been dubbed the king of unifying 'high and low culture'. Reflecting a new type of fashion consumer and the changing attitudes associated with America's taste, Preston ratified this by telling GQ at the time 'Kids recognise they don't have to be pigeonholed. They wear Louis Vuitton or Gucci with Heron Preston. They mix and match highs and lows and create a whole new space.' Bape has also long had a stake in the streetwear industry, dominating circles since the Tokyo-based brand landed on the scene in the early 90s. Founded by cult icon NIGO in 1993, Bape managed to rise to the level of mass consciousness and, at least according to Highsnobiety's Jian DeLeon, 'were arguably the first brand to go, 'This hoodie is a premium product, let's charge $400 for it', which is what the editorial director told Esquire also in 2017 - just some four years after Nigo had left the brand's helm.
Regarding the two brands coming together under the guise of wanting to globalise - rather than localise - the streetwear industry and aesthetic, the collaboration's workwear/ utilitarian-style two-piece highlights this duality. 'Throwback gestures' including Ape Shall Never Kill Ape, are also stamped onto pieces while yellow and purple camo colours blend to create a two-tone effect, references that both merge the DNA of Preston's brand with Bape, resulting in new ideas grown from existing ones. Keeping in line with Bape tradition, fleece items including the full-zip SHARK HOODIE have also been produced by Japanese factories that already have an enduring relationship with Bape. Yet some designs focus more so on mixing both label's design languages with the BAPESTA sneaker, crafted from leather and canvas, reworked in Preston's signature orange, while branded with mismatched Bape and Heron Preston labels - once again tapping into the evolving duality of streetwear labels from across the world.