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GQ | The GQ Eye | Bedwin and the Heartbreakers Designer Masafumi Watanabe Talks Japanese Quality and the Future of Menswear

GQ : You guys came into the market at an interesting time when men were starting to pay more attention to craftsmanship and sort of retreating from the “streetwear” look of graphic tees, hoodies, and hats. Do you think that was a boon for your brands? 

Bebetan : I remember when I started Bedwin I wanted clothes for “after streetwear”— for the 30-year-old man so he could wear something different from the teenager. It’s informed by the street, but with high standards, like a really nice jacket with a cool T-shirt underneath. The guy wearing really nice suits? He doesn’t know how to wear a T-shirt. It’s the same for the guy who always wears T-shirts and caps; he doesn’t know how to wear a tailored jacket. So I just wanted to combine the two. At the time I was 35 and looking for some cool brands that I could get in to. Supreme is cool, Stussy is cool, but they’re more for youth culture. I wanted to do more proper menswear. You know? It’s the guy who knows how to wear a tie, but at the same time is wearing a baseball cap. That’s my vision for the brand.

GQ : There’s a lot of media out there talking about DELUXE, and Bedwin, and you’ve also got some online stockists too. Has the advent of e-commerce made it easier for your business? 

Bebetan :
 Yeah, I think it’s easier to find things online, but if you compare America to Europe, Japan is still behind. Creativity-wise, we have so many nice brands, but they don’t have online shop. But there are so many physical stores all over Japan that support brands so we can survive. Also, the factories in Japan make better products in small quantities. It’s not like China with its massive factories. We have small operations. I think it’s the field for the products we make is interesting, but business-wise we are kind of behind.

GQ : The Bedwin slogan is “Paramount Quality,” and the price point reflects that. It seems like “made in Japan” has become the new “made in Italy.” Why is there such a reverence for it now? 

Bebetan :
 It’s because of the people. The Japanese people have this mentality similar to Italian people, I think. They don’t work for money, they work for their pride, and they work for their things. Even if they make two or three very small quantity items, they are happy to do it. That mentality provides the quality. Of course, if you’re a big company like Uniqlo, they also care about quality, but at the same time they have to care about price point. We care about the quality more than price point. When we visit some of the factories in the countryside of Japan, they’re not fashion guys, they don’t know what is a trend, but they know what is a product. They spend a lot of time trying to improve the quality.

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The Wall Street Journal | Life & Culture | Rei Kawakubo

All kinds of business models are necessary to suit all kinds of tastes and needs. We need strong creations and we need fast fashion and everything else in between. However, if all of fashion were thoroughly democratized, I would feel hopeless. The danger of continued and deepening democratization is the fear of lowest-common-denominator syndrome.

What I want to express is a feeling—various emotions that I am experiencing at the time—whether it is anger or hope or anything else, and from different angles. I construct a collection and it takes concrete form. That’s probably what appears conceptual to people because it never starts out with any specific historical or geographical reference. My point of departure is always abstract and multileveled.

My work has never been as an artist. I have only continued all these years to try to “make a business with creation.” This has been my first and one and only decision of any importance. The decision to first of all think of creating something that didn’t exist before, and then after that to give the creation form and expression in a way that can be made into a business. I cannot separate being a designer from being a businesswoman. It’s one and the same thing for me.

In order to expand Comme des Garçons’ business, we need all kinds of strategies. One of the most important strategies is to find sources of new creation. With H&M, I was tempted to try to see how Comme des Garçons could appeal to the mass market. I wouldn’t do it again, but it was a great success and very popular with our younger clientele. Junya Watanabe [whose label operates under the CDG umbrella] is a part of such a necessary company-expansion policy. With any collaboration or meeting of minds, I expect and hope for a kind of synergetic accident that may happen when somebody else’s work meets with my work, my designs. Collaborations have no meaning if 1 + 1 does not equal much more than 2. I give total freedom to Junya and Tao [Kurihara, who also designs for CDG] to create their own collections. I see their work only on the day of the show. They have the values of CDG embedded within them. If there was no trust, it wouldn’t work.

[…]

I don’t feel too excited about fashion today, more fearful that people don’t necessarily want or need strong new clothes, that there are not enough of us believing in the same thing, that there is a kind of burnout, that people just want cheap fast clothes and are happy to look like everyone else, that the flame of creation has gone a bit cold, that enthusiasm and passionate anger for change and rattling the status quo is weakening. But what I still love about it is that playing the fool, acting silly, showing off, being a celebrity designer are all integral and necessary parts of the fashion business. And creation excites me, because without creation there can be no progress.

The process of working with the aim of finding something new is really tough. It has always been tough. It’s extremely difficult to create in order to cause people to feel something, in order that people feel they are given something. It’s natural that the pressure is intense if this is your aim.

Fashion is something you attach to yourself, put on, and through that interaction the meaning of it is born. Without the wearing of it, it has no meaning, unlike a piece of art. It is fashion because people want to buy it now, because they want to wear it now, today. Fashion is only the right now.

- Edited from WSJ.’s email interview with Kawakubo. Translated by Adrian Joffe.

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The New York Times | Fashion & Style | Like Mona Lisa, Ever So Veiled | Cathy Horyn

In the end, Ms. Kawakubo’s example may prove that the last thing you need to be in the creative fields is a specialist. In fact, it may be a hindrance, blinding you to new feelings. I recently asked Ms. Kawakubo one or two specifics about her design methods, mainly to be clear about what I already knew. Did she use a so-called “mood board,” for instance?

Here is her reply, by e-mail. I reprint it in total. It says everything, and it could not be said better.

“My design process never starts or finishes. I am always hoping to find something through the mere act of living my daily life. I do not work from a desk, and do not have an exact starting point for any collection. There is never a mood board, I do not go through fabric swatches, I do not sketch, there is no eureka moment, there is no end to the search for something new. As I live my normal life, I hope to find something that click starts a thought, and then something totally unrelated would arise, and then maybe a third unconnected element would come from nowhere. Often in each collection, there are three or so seeds of things that come together accidentally to form what appears to everyone else as a final product, but for me it is never ending. There is never a moment when I think, ‘this is working, this is clear.’ If for one second I think something is finished, the next thing would be impossible to do.

“Often the elements are completely disassociated in time and dimension. One might be an emotion, the next thing a pattern image, the third thing an object or a picture I have seen somewhere. I can never remember when and from where the elements come together in my head. I trust synergy and change. For fall 2012, I was thinking about no design being design, about very ordinary fabric (wool felt) being strong. Somehow, the two-dimension level of thinking became apparent.

“I do not feel happy when a collection is understood too well. For me, White Drama was too easily understood, the concept too clear. I feel better about fall 2012, because it wasn’t too clear, and some people assumed things it had nothing to do with, like the Internet age.

“The struggle to find something new gets more and more difficult with time and experience, so this time, for fall 2012, my feeling was to try to make a collection by doing very little.”

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"If you don’t dress the inside of your head like you’ve been dressing the outside of your body, you’re in trouble."

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yonghoonk:

Ann Demeulemeester narrates text from the essay ‘ON FRIENDSHIP’ by Ancient Roman Philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero in a collaborative short film for thecorner.com

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yonghoonk:

Very rare footage of ”6.1 THE MEN”, the joint presentation of Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme and Comme des Garçons Homme Plus F/W 1991 in Tokyo on June 1st, 1991.

This was the first time that both designers had presented their menswear in Japan. The shows were modeled by musicians, actors, and various other creatives - even some members of Yohji’s company, if I am not mistaken.

The two men being interviewed in the video are (in order) Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi of the legendary electronic trio Yellow Magic Orchestra, with the famed Ryuichi Sakamoto being the third member.

Below is a more thorough explanation of the show’s theme and significance, followed by an extremely valuable and hilarious first hand account of the show and a certain happening backstage, told by German guitarist Ottmar Liebert who was invited to model for the show - Courtesy of Asobu from Styleforum.

A/W 1991, as far as I know, showed in Paris at the end of January 1991 and then showed again together with CdG in Tokyo on June 1st and called “6.1 THE MEN”. Still one of the most talked about and coveted collections by Yohji fans in Japan from what I can tell, many of the pieces still catch quite large sums on the second hand market. The theme was “war”, several musicians including Charles Lloyd and John Cale (who also modeled in A/W04 btw) modeled the show and apparently sang some antiwar song together at the final part of the show (the collection was created and shown during the gulf war). Some of the signature pieces was the leather jacket with women prints on the back (he referenced this in “my dear bomb” as well, when he talked about nose art of american fighter planes being pictures of “girlfriends and sexy ladies” when heading into battle), zipper jackets and Joan Miró inspired blazers.

This is a great story from Ottmar Liebert about his experience when he walked the show, well worth the read.

"In 1991 the Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, together with Comme des Garçons, was putting on the first men’s fashion show in Japan and asked me to be one of his runway models. At the time Yohji prefered to use actors and musicians over models and he has also used athletes in the past. I flew to Tokyo from Los Angeles and was picked up at the airport and taken to a very nice hotel in Tokyo, which Frank Lloyd Wright had designed in the sixties. The show took place in the Olympic swim stadium of Tokyo, where the pool had been covered by a runway stage. On each end of the runway a huge wall was erected. Behind one wall Yamamoto was set up and behind the other wall Comme des Garçons. 

Comme des Garçons : Dennis Hopper, Trumpet player Don Cherry and his son Eagle-Eye Cherry (a TV presenter in the UK and not yet the pop star), British actor Julian something or other, Keyboardist Morgan Fisher (who later produced the wonderful CD “Miniatures” to which I contributed a piece)… 

Yohji Yamamoto : Charles Lloyd, Edgar Winter, a member of YMO (one of Japan’s most famous bands, which also featured Ryuichi Sakamoto)… Yohji and his people treated everyone wonderfully. And then he made a mistake on the day of the show. 

Thinking we were all men instead of the stars some felt they were, he offered as part of the refreshments Japanese cans of beer. In Japan cans are tiny, they are cute and many of the guys probably thought that one couldn’t possibly get drunk from drinking tiny cans of beer….well, if you drink a dozen of them you do get drunk, you know! And then a British pop singer asked a French rapper to turn down the crap on his boom-box and the French guy responded with his fist, which fractured the pop guy’s jaw. While he was rushed to the hospital Yohji’s people frantically searched for somebody who could wear his clothes…. In the end one of Yohji’s French employees took his place and wore the clothes well. I felt terribly embarassed. Here we were in one of the great cities of the world, guests of a real artist, and these men had to get into a fight. What a way to repay Yohji’s kindness! But fame is fleeting and karma instant.. I never heard from the British pop star and the French rapper again…

I remember how amazed we were at the Japanese audience. Some had waited since the early morning hours and yet, when the doors opened the first in line went to the last seat instead of claiming the best seat in the house. It was almost biblical…

One thing I remember about the show itself is that Yohji, who is a guitarist himself and also produced the soundtrack, had installed sound triggers along the runway. We were invited to step on those triggers, each of which controlled a different sound that would blast over the music. Car crashes, industrial sounds, drum breaks, glass breaking, guitar riffs etc…I also remember that the Brit who was walking ahead of me was drunk or high or both and thought that the crowd’s enthusiasm was directed at him instead of the clothing…I remember three or four people helping me change into the next outfit, grabbing shirts, pulling on shoes…I remember the late Don Cherry walking around on the runway like a court jester and greeting the other Comme des 
Garçons walkers…”

Times when Fashion really seemed to be about the passion and love for the beautiful creative work of these designers. Inspiring.

Reblogging with updated link, the video had been taken down.

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collectingknowledge:

*A must read / watch for anyone interested in the Japanese Fashion revolution of the early 80s - or actually, anyone interested in fashion. It is very important to know how fashion has changed since this era and this article / video is a very beautiful and valuable first hand account of the zeitgeist of those times.

Debra Scherer | Op-Ed | When Passion Was Everything | The Business of Fashion

Debra Scherer recalls the collaboration between Yohji Yamamoto and Irene Silvagni, and a time when the industry saw fashion with greater intensity.

NEW YORK, United States — When Irene Silvagni arrived at French Vogue in the mid-1980s, she (along with Colombe Pringle) recognised a new wave of photographers, models and, of course,  designers. She brought Peter Lindbergh, Paolo Roversi, Bruce Weber, Ellen Von Unwerth and a then unemployable Steven Meisel to the pages of Vogue, before they and their aesthetic were accepted by New York, London or Milan. And her support of new Japanese designers and a chance meeting with Yohji Yamamoto at a Comme des Garçons show led to one of the most beautiful and personal collaborations fashion has ever seen.

I was approached a few months ago by the team at Byronesque, a vintage e-commerce and editorial site, with some raw footage of Madame Silvagni recalling this collaboration and her role as creative director of Yohji Yamamoto during his most influential period. They had approached her about selling some of her original Yohji Yamamoto pieces and what was supposed to be a quick shoot became a full recounting of their collaboration.

At the time Silvagni recalls, in the mid-1980s and 1990s, I was working, first, as an assistant at American Vogue in New York and then, eventually, as a fashion editor at French Vogue in Paris and, as a result, had what you might call a front row seat to the whole thing. So after listening to the tapes, I said to the Byronesque team, “Ok, I think I can tell this story in a way that was more than just historical or nostalgic.”

It’s an excellent time to watch those old shows, to look at those clothes and think about them — think about how avant-garde both Yohji and Rei Kawakubo were when they began in 1981. As Madame Silvagni says in the film, “There were people fighting with fists outside after these shows.” It was still a time when passion was everything, when you didn’t just say “fab” and hurry off to the next show or store opening. Another thing that’s incredible to notice: there were no celebrities, everyone was actually watching the show, and looking at the clothes, with great intensity, sometimes with big smiles and always applause.

Look carefully and you will see the applause was not for Yohji the man, not for the cult of the celebrity designer, but rather, for the workmanship, the sensuality, the proportions, the way the fabric moved on the woman, the way each outfit was having a dialogue with the one that preceded it and the one the was to follow. There were no elaborate carrousels or millions of dollars worth of flowers or anything like that. The dresses, the hats, the suits, the girls, the way they walked, the way they floated, every outfit was like its own show. Every outfit, though they may have seemed simple, was a complicated sartorial expression. Yohji Yamamoto really understood a woman’s body, the proportional beauty and the ephemeral qualities that go along with that beauty.

I was lucky enough to be seated next to André Leon Talley at almost every show during that period and it was something I looked forward to as much as the show itself. We were inspired to reminisce about the days working together in New York, when we would wait for the haute couture gowns to arrive off of the Concorde, which landed at JFK around 5pm. Waiting and waiting for the trunks to arrive in the office as we pulled out masses and masses of yellow duchesse satin sent directly from the salon of Hubert de Givenchy. Ah, and I remembered his very Vogue way of teaching us about haute couture. He said, “You see, that is what makes couture couture, because when the fabric is like this you can just shake and wear.” This we remembered, all while waiting for the unbelievable yellow gown Yohji was about to send passed us.

Skip to the next season. I find my seat and, to my sadness and disappointment, André is nowhere to be found. I thought it was not possible he would miss this presentation, but the lights went down and they began the now infamous “wedding show.” And lo and behold, to my great delight, André was actually in the show, playing the groom.

Look at the clothes, look at the audience, just put down your phone for a minute (or 10 minutes) and really look. It’s emotional and inspiring, and a great reminder of how much has changed. The short film’s title, “Mono No Aware” refers to a Japanese literary concept that contains empathy towards the beauty of things as well as an awareness of the impermanence of these things and the gentle sadness that might evoke.

“Mono No Aware” will be presented next week in New York at Byronesque Offline, hosted by Michèle Lamy, Glenn O’Brien and Mazdak Rassi...

Reblogging with updated link, the video had been taken down.

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yonghoonk:

The lovely piece of fashion history that I was talking about in one of my recent posts.

While researching one of my newly discovered favourite designers / brands, (Christopher) Nemeth, I came across this video presentation of his work (presumably early - mid 80s).

The video itself is a rare piece of fashion history, and actually really fun to watch. It appears to be footage taken during a photoshoot, with narration describing what the pieces / looks being showcased are.

However, what I was referring to specifically when I said I discovered a lovely piece of fashion history was what you see in the stills above - one of the dressers / assistants are wearing a Comme des Garçons runway staff uniform printed with the words Printemps-Été 1986 Comme des Garçons Homme Plus. 

There are quite a few photos of the Spring / Summer 1986 Women’s mainline uniforms online. There are also quite a few of those pieces in circulation, being sold by vintage shops. This Homme Plus iteration, however, is quite rare and the only photo I could ever find of it is the last one above, taken from a Japanese gentleman’s Zozopeople blog.

The full video is well worth watching and I highly recommend it. Click


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yonghoonk:

Very rare footage of ”6.1 THE MEN”, the joint presentation of Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme and Comme des Garçons Homme Plus F/W 1991 in Tokyo on June 1st, 1991.

This was the first time that both designers had presented their menswear in Japan. The shows were modeled by musicians, actors, and various other creatives - even some members of Yohji’s company, if I am not mistaken.

The two men being interviewed in the video are (in order) Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi of the legendary electronic trio Yellow Magic Orchestra, with the famed Ryuichi Sakamoto being the third member.

Below is a more thorough explanation of the show’s theme and significance, followed by an extremely valuable and hilarious first hand account of the show and a certain happening backstage, told by German guitarist Ottmar Liebert who was invited to model for the show - Courtesy of Asobu from Styleforum.

A/W 1991, as far as I know, showed in Paris at the end of January 1991 and then showed again together with CdG in Tokyo on June 1st and called “6.1 THE MEN”. Still one of the most talked about and coveted collections by Yohji fans in Japan from what I can tell, many of the pieces still catch quite large sums on the second hand market. The theme was “war”, several musicians including Charles Lloyd and John Cale (who also modeled in A/W04 btw) modeled the show and apparently sang some antiwar song together at the final part of the show (the collection was created and shown during the gulf war). Some of the signature pieces was the leather jacket with women prints on the back (he referenced this in “my dear bomb” as well, when he talked about nose art of american fighter planes being pictures of “girlfriends and sexy ladies” when heading into battle), zipper jackets and Joan Miró inspired blazers.

This is a great story from Ottmar Liebert about his experience when he walked the show, well worth the read.

"In 1991 the Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, together with Comme des Garçons, was putting on the first men’s fashion show in Japan and asked me to be one of his runway models. At the time Yohji prefered to use actors and musicians over models and he has also used athletes in the past. I flew to Tokyo from Los Angeles and was picked up at the airport and taken to a very nice hotel in Tokyo, which Frank Lloyd Wright had designed in the sixties. The show took place in the Olympic swim stadium of Tokyo, where the pool had been covered by a runway stage. On each end of the runway a huge wall was erected. Behind one wall Yamamoto was set up and behind the other wall Comme des Garçons. 

Comme des Garçons : Dennis Hopper, Trumpet player Don Cherry and his son Eagle-Eye Cherry (a TV presenter in the UK and not yet the pop star), British actor Julian something or other, Keyboardist Morgan Fisher (who later produced the wonderful CD “Miniatures” to which I contributed a piece)… 

Yohji Yamamoto : Charles Lloyd, Edgar Winter, a member of YMO (one of Japan’s most famous bands, which also featured Ryuichi Sakamoto)… Yohji and his people treated everyone wonderfully. And then he made a mistake on the day of the show. 

Thinking we were all men instead of the stars some felt they were, he offered as part of the refreshments Japanese cans of beer. In Japan cans are tiny, they are cute and many of the guys probably thought that one couldn’t possibly get drunk from drinking tiny cans of beer….well, if you drink a dozen of them you do get drunk, you know! And then a British pop singer asked a French rapper to turn down the crap on his boom-box and the French guy responded with his fist, which fractured the pop guy’s jaw. While he was rushed to the hospital Yohji’s people frantically searched for somebody who could wear his clothes…. In the end one of Yohji’s French employees took his place and wore the clothes well. I felt terribly embarassed. Here we were in one of the great cities of the world, guests of a real artist, and these men had to get into a fight. What a way to repay Yohji’s kindness! But fame is fleeting and karma instant.. I never heard from the British pop star and the French rapper again…

I remember how amazed we were at the Japanese audience. Some had waited since the early morning hours and yet, when the doors opened the first in line went to the last seat instead of claiming the best seat in the house. It was almost biblical…

One thing I remember about the show itself is that Yohji, who is a guitarist himself and also produced the soundtrack, had installed sound triggers along the runway. We were invited to step on those triggers, each of which controlled a different sound that would blast over the music. Car crashes, industrial sounds, drum breaks, glass breaking, guitar riffs etc…I also remember that the Brit who was walking ahead of me was drunk or high or both and thought that the crowd’s enthusiasm was directed at him instead of the clothing…I remember three or four people helping me change into the next outfit, grabbing shirts, pulling on shoes…I remember the late Don Cherry walking around on the runway like a court jester and greeting the other Comme des 
Garçons walkers…”

Times when Fashion really seemed to be about the passion and love for the beautiful creative work of these designers. Inspiring.

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PRESENT