Bedwin & The Heartbreakers is the Japan-based, Americana-infused, London-dipped menswear brand, packing out the dream wardrobe of the world’s cosmopolitan chaps.
Click images to enlarge.
Founded in 2004 by a well-travelled, thoroughly-informed Masafumi “Bebetan” Watanabe, Bedwin & The Heartbreakers is the trail-brazing brand that pre-empted menswear’s American workwear resurgence. Eight years at the forefront means the Bedwin boys have spent a significant period perfecting the cut of their cloth, slickening their silhouettes and creating collections that ooze refinement. Shorts cut in perfect, thigh-skimming proportions; pockets in all the right places; and sleeves that aren’t too short, aren’t too long but are just right, are all testament to the brand’s motto of ‘paramount quality’. For SS12, menswear designers in Florence, Milan and Paris presented well-clad, globe-trotting gents as trends focussed on the travelling man. Taking nods from style capitals the world over, Bedwin has been kitting out the modern day voyager for close to a decade.
In an age when we pace the trend treadmill at ‘fashion weeks’ for a month out of every six, Bedwin strive to serve-up something a little more enduring. Watanabe’s well-honed eye for detail means the brand is a pretty cracking embodiment of Japanese perfection. When the purse-strings are tight, folk look to get more bang for their buck and by constantly perfecting their already refined pieces, Bedwin deliver neat, primely-priced wardrobe offerings. On a recent stop-over in London from his Tokyo HQ, i-D online scooped time with big Bedwin boss Bebetan and he took some snaps of his time in The Big Smoke especially for you…
Can we start by talking a little about the expansion of the brand beyond Japan… Our key cities have always been London, New York and Tokyo. We’ve grown up with influences from all of these places, with street culture, skate culture, second-hand clothes, American heritage brands, English heritage brands and so on… Our inspiration is global and given this, it’s natural for us to want to expand Bedwin in Europe and in particular, London and the UK. Bedwin is definitely a Japanese brand and it’s important for us to represent our country’s street scene throughout the world.
When you started in 2004 why did you feel the heritage-wear had a relevance? I design for myself and my friends. In terms of fashion, Tokyo is a blend of multiple cultures, so inspiration came through that blend and variety. It started in a very organic way, just making shirts and then jackets and now adding ties. It’s for me and my friends and people in Tokyo seem to like and appreciate that too. Tokyo is still our main market, not in the countryside of Japan. A lot of brands now are selling a lot but not in Tokyo, maybe China or Korea, but our main customers actually live in Tokyo. They appreciate the simplicity that’s key to the brand.
Very blatant branding has been successful in elevating the popularity of a lot of labels recently, look at the effect artists like Tyler, The Creator have on Supreme. But for you it’s much more discreet… We don’t do any ‘logo logo’ t-shirts, no heavy-branding, we keep things simple with simple details. There’s no changing personality, it’s always going in the same direction. In general, in Japan it’s more discreet… They look to co-ordinate. Menswear doesn’t have the same diversity and choice as womenswear, it’s very simple, trousers or shorts, baggy or slim. So it’s more about how you co-ordinate… We try to explain this Bedwin’s coordination, sometimes you want a button-down with jeans or with chinos, sometimes you want a t-shirt with a cargo pant or a khaki print. For me, it’s a personal trend, what you feel like at that moment.
You have a keen eye on not being trend-led though and having a more enduring approach to style. Does the seasonal fashion cycle frustrate you? Doing two collections twice a year is a lot of work but it’s also a good excuse to refresh things, even slightly. When I was younger I found it difficult to have that turn-over, but now I see it as a good opportunity to demonstrate what we do. With each collection, we’re trying to update items, changing a detail, the silverware, the fabrics, it can be a really tiny difference but it just updates them and makes them better. And it always comes naturally. You know, if we make the perfect pair of jeans we wouldn’t touch anything on them… We have key, iconic items, the trousers we collaborate with Dickies on or our button-down shirts for example, they sit amongst all of the other items with each collection but perhaps have changed less.
What other brands were you investing in before you started making your own clothes? When I was younger I couldn’t buy anything too expensive but I did buy a lot of second-hand clothes, Levi’s 501s, vintage workwear jackets so that’s why the brand is based on that sort of clothing. But I don’t want to re-make vintage I want to do something new.
Text: Sean Baker
Photography: Masafumi “Bebetan” Watanabe