BAPE ‘by R’ carves up the catwalk at Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo

Iconic Harajuku fashion label A BATHING APE (BAPE) celebrated its 30th anniversary this summer with its first-ever hometown runway show at Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo.

Rakuten has been the headline sponsor for Tokyo’s prestigious fashion week since 2019, and the event team didn’t hold back for the much-anticipated 2024 S/S show. Taking full advantage of Rakuten’s tech arsenal, the spectacle was broadcast to fashion enthusiasts around the globe, showcasing the talented work of designers from some 50 different brands.

The BAPE (by R) 2024 S/S Collection featured both the brand’s signature styles as well as innovative, new looks.

An icon of Harajuku street fashion

BAPE has been an enduring symbol of street fashion since its founding in 1993, tenaciously pursuing its stated mission of delivering Japanese style to the world. Yet despite its worldwide renown, the label was yet to hold a fashion show in its hometown, Tokyo.

Held in celebration of BAPE’s 30th anniversary, this year’s runway show was the brand’s very first in the city. The stage for the occasion was the National Yoyogi Stadium – a stone’s throw from the fashionable Harajuku district. Here prominent members of the fashion and entertainment world gathered to the beat of atmospheric Japanese taiko drums.

“The BAPE brand has been in business for 30 years, during which time our birthplace of Harajuku has continued to evolve, alongside the market our brand operates in,” said a spokesperson from BAPE. “BAPE has enjoyed continued success precisely because we see this evolution as growth.”

“One reason we partnered with Rakuten was because the concept behind Rakuten’s ‘by R’ project is very similar to our own philosophy of promoting Harajuku fashion to a global audience,” they explained. “The other big factor was the incredible passion of the Rakuten Fashion Week project team.”

BAPE x Rakuten: Leveraging digital tools for a fashion spectacle

Rakuten Fashion’s ‘by R’ initiative launched in 2020 with the goal of connecting talented Japanese fashion designers with the global market.

“BAPE has been doing business globally for over 20 years,” the BAPE spokesperson said. “We think that collaborating with Rakuten and combining our strengths has allowed us to leverage each other’s expertise and create some truly unique and exciting things.”

“To communicate to our new and existing fans the history and future of BAPE, we chose not just to hold a runway show, but also to leverage digital tools to broadcast the show to China and other global markets, and we’re really impressed by the incredible response we received.”

The spectacle was viewed by fashion enthusiasts around the globe through a free livestream on the Rakuten Fashion platform.

“The show was one of our biggest ever,” said Jin Iijima, Senior Manager at Rakuten’s Fashion Business Department. “We leveraged the strengths of both companies – Rakuten’s assets and expertise, and BAPE’s market presence. This gave maximum potential to support the runway show and reach a broad audience.”

Making fashion familiar

The Rakuten Fashion platform exists alongside online shopping mall Rakuten Ichiba as a hub for fashion brands to sell to members in Japan. The fashion week team leaned heavily into Rakuten’s e-commerce expertise, linking participating brands with real online shops in a way that few other fashion shows can.

The collab spawned a series of limited edition BAPE articles, only available through Rakuten Fashion.
The collab spawned a series of limited edition BAPE articles, only available through Rakuten Fashion.

“By making the items available for purchase through Rakuten Fashion, we were able to create a unique environment in which consumers actually have access to the goods shown on the catwalk.”

One theme of this year’s fashion week was the concept of openness.

“We hoped that by making fashion more open, it would feel more familiar to general consumers,” Iijima revealed. “That’s why we partnered up with BAPE, a brand that is loved regardless of age or nationality.”

Both BAPE and Rakuten Fashion are singular in their mission: Empower Japanese creators.

“Through ‘by R,’ we will continue striving to empower the global promotion of local brands,” Iijima said. “We hope to build on this foundation to further strengthen efforts to reach end consumers, support young Tokyo creators, and promote them around the world.”

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