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Sk8thing: The Phantom of 90's Japanese Streetwear

For the past 30 years, Shinichiro Nakamura aka Sk8thing, has been the most cryptic yet dominating influence in Japanese streetwear and culture to this day. His work in graphic design has been the driving force for just about every relevant Japanese streetwear brand since the 90’s and he was quite literally there as some of the most iconic names in streetwear came to conception. For most of his career, Sk8thing has decided to be publicly anonymous, typically wearing a mask or covering his face wherever he goes. He said it started as a kid after he watched Phantom of the Opera, it related to how he always felt inside. This was his first real formative experience in his life and later it became a manifestation of his alter ego, Sk8thing. He believes that to be seen in his position is also to be sold, and for that very reason, Sk8thing will always remain anonymous.

The Original Streetwear Brand - GoodEnough

What we do know about Sk8thing is that he had no formal art education and was one of the first disciples of Hiroshi Fujiwara. Sk8thing was the one that actually convinced Fujiwara to start his first brand GoodEnough in 1990 and that same year Fujiwara taught him how to use a very early Mac computer to do graphic design.The two worked closely on GoodEnough and was their first venture into clothing, centered around skateboarding, as the two would often go skate together.

Creating A Bathing Ape alongside Nigo

Hiroshi Fujiwara wasn’t the only one that was influenced by Sk8thing as in 1992, their good friend named Nigo wanted to start his own brand. After an intense 5 hour Planet of the Apes marathon together, Sk8thing came up with the name and the inspiration for A Bathing Ape’s iconic logo. Sk8thing designed the first Bape t-shirt as well as many of the early graphics. He eventually was hired full time and worked in the Nowhere store as a graphic designer in the where he developed some of the most famous designs for brands like Bathing Ape, Undercover, Neighborhood, and many more.

The Ghost Writer of Graphic Design

Sk8thing also played integral roles in the development of many other Urahara brands like Bounty Hunter by Hikaru Iwanaga and Undercover by Jun Takahashi. Bounty Hunter started as a vinyl toy company, producing small collectible characters and Sk8thing designed one of the first toys for them which was named “Kid Hunter.” T-shirts with the character were also released which was Bounty Hunter’s first venture into fashion. With Undercover, Jun enlisted Sk8thing to design the graphics and prints for his Spring Summer 2001 collection entitled “Chaotic Discord.” This collection seems to get mixed reviews but I think it gets overlooked for its simplicity and is a very unique collaboration between Jun and Sk8thing. With a career spanning multiple decades, the story of Sk8thing is just beginning.

Sk8thing and Skateboard P

In 2003, Toby Feltwell left his job as an A&R at James Lavelle’s Mo’ Wax Records and joined the team at Bape in Japan. Feltwell and Sk8thing cliqued right away as they shared many design influences and would often talk amongst themselves about the latest films, music, or art. So when it came time for Pharrell to start his clothing brand, Feltwell recommended Sk8thing to be the lead designer. Once again, after taking this position, Sk8thing created the logo for the brand and all of the graphics for many of the first collections. Feltwell then acted as a middle man to Pharrell and would show him the latest concepts, this allowed Sk8thing to solely dedicate his time to making graphics for the brand. One of the most iconic designs from this era was the all over print shoes made for Reebok with Pharrell that featured different items you might find in someone's pocket like a beeper, dice, lipstick, or money.

Let the Buyer Beware - Cav Empt

In 2011 Sk8thing, Toby Feltwell and Hishiyama Yutaka came up with their most recent clothing endeavor, “Cav Empt”. Which is said to be “born out of the darkness Tokyo fell into due to power saving measures after the earthquake in 2011”. Cav Empt or Cav Emptor is Latin for “Let the buyer beware” and comes from a tattoo in the Philip K. Dick book, Ubik, which makes sense because of the brand's ethos in science fiction. C.E. Can be described as a brand taken place in a retro-futuristic world of hyperreality and technological dystopia; not unlike today's world. Sk8thing finds a lot of his influence in what is happening in society and the current fashion market. C.E. rebels against these societal standards birthed from technology and lack of inspiration in the unimaginative clothing market of today.

Writer: Khan Delin & Alex


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