The son of a nurse and billboard maker, Tomaki Nagao’s parents often worked a lot, leaving him alone with his toys as a child, where he developed a fondness for pop culture franchises like Star Wars. As a teenage clothing nerd going to high school in Maebashi, the capital of Japan’s mountainous Gunma prefecture, he idolized Hiroshi Fujiwara. As outlined in W. David Marx’s Ametora, Nagao read Fujiwara’s “Last Orgy” column in Japanese mag Takarajima like the Bible. Fujiwara’s column espoused the distinct subcultural mix—hip-hop, fashion, punk, skate—that embodied the same wave of Shawn Stussy’s seminal International Stüssy Tribe, of which Fujiwara was a member. That granted him access to a burgeoning scene of global cool guys, linking up with legit influencers like Michael Koppleman and Fraser Cooke in London, as well as cultural vanguards Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. In fact, it was McLaren who put Fujiwara off of his obsession with punk and new wave, and guided him towards New York’s fledgling hip-hop scene.

The eclectic cultural mix presented in “Last Orgy” blew Nagao’s post-pubescent mind, and inspired him to move to Tokyo to enroll at the prestigious Bunka Fashion College—where he didn’t study design, but rather a course meant for aspiring magazine editors. Then known as “Tomo-kun” to his friends, Nagao also happened to meet future UNDERCOVER designer Jun “Jonio” Takahashi at school. Through a chance meeting at a club, a merchandiser for punk shop A Store Robot noticed the striking resemblance between Nagao and his idol, Hiroshi Fujiwara. So he nicknamed him “Fujiwara Hiroshi NIGO,” translated as “Fujiwara Hiroshi Number Two.” Obviously, the new moniker stuck.

Eventually, NIGO met Hiroshi Fujiwara Number One, and began to climb the ranks in the Japanese scene, starting off as his personal assistant, DJing parties, and co-authoring a column in Popeye magazine with Takahashi, named “Last Orgy 2” in homage to his mentor.

In 1990, Fujiwara and graphic artist Shinichiro “Sk8thing” Nakaramura had an idea to start their own label of graphically-informed T-shirts and sportswear staples. Their Goodenough label caught fire fast, due partly to Fujiwara’s high level of influence, and also some mentorship from Toru “TORUEYE” Iwai, a retail veteran who had sold plenty of VAN clothes—the defunct Japanese menswear label that made ivy style an inadvertently rebellious uniform in the ‘60s.