‘Each collaboration is unique,’ say French swimwear label Vilebrequin, who in recent years have embarked on a wide array of collaborative collections, uniting with international artists (Alex Israel, John M Armleder, Sylvie Fleury), fashion brands (Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, Palm Angels) and non-profits alike (in 2021, Vilebrequin created swimwear from recycled marine plastics in collaboration with charity Plastic Odyssey). 

Revealed this week, the latest in this long list is Bape Black, the premium offshoot of cult Japanese streetwear label A Bathing Ape, founded in 1993 by Nigo (the designer exited Bape in 2013; now, he is the creative director of Kenzo). ‘Bape Black manifest their unique contemporary designs beyond simply fashion, combining premium-grade materials with artisanal craftsmanship [to] exude luxury,’ the brand explains of the distinction between the two lines. 

Vilebrequin x Bape Black: ‘Bathing is Life’

Model wearing garment from Vilebrequin collaboration with Bape Black
Vilebrequin x Bape Black: ‘Bathing is Life’

Titled ‘Bathing is Life’, the collaborative collection – an ‘epic crossover’, as the notes describe – comprises a 7-piece ‘drop’ which spans T-shirts, sweatshirts and Vilebrequin’s signature swim trunks. Designed to be worn both in and out of the water, the latter arrive in various bandana-inspired paisley prints, as well as classic black. Each pair is stamped with a Vilebrequin x Bape logo which melds Bape’s famed cartoon ape with Vilebrequin’s sea turtle motif (the composite logo also appears across the collection’s various other garments).

‘What happens when apes encounter sea turtles? Mutual fascination,’ Vilebrequin playfully say of the cross-continental collaboration, combining attention to craft and luxury fabrications with an easy streetwear sensibility (T-shirts and sweaters come in a gently oversized fit, made to be an alternative to Vilebrequin’s classic polo shirts). Despite a shared approach, Vilebrequin does note that the primarily black and white collection does mark something of a ‘change of gears’ for the label, which has previously utilised what they call a ‘Saint-Tropez palette’ of sunny shades evoking sand and sea (the label was founded in the portside French city in 1971).

The collection – which is genderless, and also arrives in kidswear editions – is available now at Vilebrequin’s Burlington Street store and online, just in time for last-minute summertime escapes. §

Model wearing garment from Vilebrequin collaboration with Bape Black
Model wearing garment from Vilebrequin collaboration with Bape Black