Beams Plus Interview
BEAMS is one of the most influential fashion entities in Japan, with a well established presence in design and retail the core elements. One side of the empire, BEAMS PLUS has been making a strong impact for over a decade now and continues to influence with a unique approach to American sensibilities. I caught up with director and chief buyer Shinsuke Nakada to discuss the values of the BEAMS PLUS line and how it fits in the market place. In addition we put together a few looks to provide a further insight into the BEAMS PLUS Spring/Summer 2012 season.
James Oliver: For those who don't know can you tell me what BEAMS is?
Shinsuke Nakada: BEAMS = HAPPY LIFE SOLUTION COMPANY Our Company President Yo Shitara says, to know what's fresh, what's comfortable, what moves us, what expresses us. Provide reasonable and subtle items of happiness that bring dreams to life; items that bring us together in our personal, everyday space and time. To always seek excitement, and then to share. To lay a new set of rules that transcend tradition and prestige for those that enjoy quality in daily life. These are our roles. Keeping poised attention on time, we aim to be the leading force behind lifestyle and culture.
JO: Can you tell me the core philosophy of the BEAMS PLUS line?
SN: I believe the Beams Plus role is to propose “updated men’s basic wear” that fit to today‘s life-style. We focus on good old American clothing, especially between WW2 and Vietnam War era(1945-1965). During these 20 years, the US fostered it's economic growth and people’s life style had significantly improved. It was this period that four big categories of uniform were born through mass production according to usage and style; American tradition for white collar, work wear for blue collar, sportswear for athlete and military wear for army, and those uniforms with functional beauty and background giving meaning for every detail.
We believe these four major uniforms are absolutely essentials for basic men's clothing. It’s not possible to arrange the design and styles without understanding basics. This is the reason that we always pursue the basic functional details and history in the background first, and then suggest the “updated basic wear” adding trends through original interpretation.
JO: Can you explain how you balance the creative element with the business aspect of your position?
SN: I think I’m taking a good balance between business by close research of sales figures and creativity by keeping inspiration and sense. It is very important to be in close communication with the shop staff. I carefully mix the opinion from our stores with my idea and make them into the best creation.
JO: How does it compare and compliment the other lines at BEAMS?
SN: BEAMS PLUS started in 1999 to house timeless men's clothing, remembering the good-old American styles that BEAMS grew up on. These original styles are kept alive in a lineup of original, imported, vintage pieces and accessories, while BEAMS PLUS is not merely revival or nostalgia, but instead a pursuit of authenticity in the next generation of casual wear.
The biggest difference from the other BEAMS Label is we have absolute concept as I mentioned above. We focus on good-old American clothing, life-style, then introducing them in updated way. Our basic concept won’t change while other fashion companies would follow trends, this is the biggest difference.
JO: How has Beams Plus evolved and grown over the past decade or so?
SN: BEAMS PLUS started with one flagship store in Osaka which opened in 1999. At that time, the men’s fashion scene was full of trendy street fashion and classic Italian style, and everyone was forgetting “basic”. In that situation, BEAMS PLUS was launched as the “reminder” of basic to rescue men’s casual fashion. After a lot of trial and error, the new flagship store was opened in Harajuku in 2000, and we followed this up when we opened the BEAMS PLUS Marunouchi store in 2008. Now the BEAMS PLUS label is carried at every men’s casual BEAMS stores in Japan, and also distributed at well-established men’s stores in Europe and US.
JO: How does the retail space reflect the line?
SN: It totally depends on the location, just because each store has a different approach to their customers. I usually communicate with visual merchandisers what is the most efficient way to present our collection at each store for best results.
JO: Alongside BEAMS PLUS there is a select list of labels in store, how do you go about your buying?
SN: Discussion is the most important part. Basically we discuss in the team of four people including buyers and merchandisers before we order. Regarding a new brand, we carefully consider if it fits the BEAMS PLUS concept, if we can have a long relationship with the brand, if we can have good influence from each other, and if we can give strong impact or great approach to the market. Those elements are very important to us to consider if we start carrying a new brand at BEAMS PLUS store.
JO: The label has recently made an impression outside of Japan with a number of stores in North America and Europe picking it up. How did this come about? Was this something you always wanted to push?
SN: We have always wanted to push and introduce our label worldwide. A few years before we started distribution, many buyers from Europe and US were coming to BEAMS PLUS Harajuku and we have seen and felt good feedback from them. All this good feedback really encouraged us to move on. It was also under the huge trust and co-operation from WP Italy, who first came to us to offer space for BEAMS PLUS at their stores. We’re always grateful to those partners who have willingly introducing BEAMS PLUS at their store.
JO: What vision do you have for BEAMS PLUS?
SN: To pursue what the American men’s clothing is and to understand what is the authenticity of men’s clothing. Also, we would like to make more associates that we can share our thoughts and taste mutually in a good way.
JO: Finally, what is a key style for this summer?
SN: The Key style is loose but intelligent. The concept for the Spring/Summer 2012 Collection is 'Hipster'. The idea of “beat” was born in 1950s New York. It was at this time that a word “hipster”, which has been used to describe “mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior”, was established. The spirit then developed into the “hippie movement” in San Francisco in 1960s. And now 2010's, it has moved into Portland where recently many artists have settled in. With the image of the town where nature and culture co-exists peacefully, BEAMS PLUS suggests the loose but intelligent styling for SS12.
Photographer - Rintaro Ishige