Under the heat of a late August afternoon, our Japanese correspondent Jeremie Perie had the chance to share a couple of hours with two of Tokyo’s most influential designers, Masafumi “Bebe” Watanabe of Bedwin and Hideki “Hue” Kimura of Deluxe. Sitting back and relaxing in one of their Tokyoite studios, the HYPEBEAST team went along with their two hosts through a large topics panel including fashion, art and lifestyle.
Interview with Masafumi “Bebe” Watanabe & Hideki “Hue” Kimura
MW = Masafumi “Bebe” Watanabe (Bedwin)
HK = Hideki “Hue” Kimura (Deluxe)
Through your teenage years and early careers paths, what led you guys into the fashion industry?
MW: Hue and I grew up together, we went to the same school in a suburb of Tokyo and we’ve been close ever since. Our first encounter with fashion was through sport. Back in the days, we played together on the football team. Looking good on the field was almost more important that the game itself. I started wearing brands such as Puma and adidas but my personal favorite was definitely Nike.
Later on, i get into street fashion via the skateboard and BMX scene. We, of course, had a lot of respect for the 80’s Japanese DC brands (High fashion) but it was so far from our reality that it didn’t influence us that much.
After high school, I studied interior design for a little bit while working as a model, however i really wanted to live overseas and experience a new kind of lifestyle. That’s why i moved to London and stayed there for about 2 years.
Hideki “Hue” Kimura on the left / Masafumi “Bebe” Watanabe on the right
It’s actually in London that i met my partners with whom I co-founded Tenderloin in 1996. We all were based in different cities when we started the label; I was in London, we had one partner in L.A and one in Tokyo. It was a quiet unique way to work, but we all learned a lot.
HK: Well, my career-path is a bit different. My first job in fashion was in a streetwear shop in Tokyo, it was my first contact with the industry. Then i moved to New York for 3 years. My experience in the States had opened my eyes both artistically and as a person. When i moved back in Tokyo I wanted to keep working in the fashion industry so i joined the Tenderloin team.
What made you guys decide to part company from the Tenderloin family and pursue your own projects?
MW: Towards the end, we had a lot of creative divergences within the Tenderloin team, so I decided to go solo in order to save both my artistic integrity and friendship with the other members of the crew.
I also knew that Hue wanted to build his own label in the future, so i convinced him to join forces to start together our own labels from the same base.
In 2003, you started Deluxe and Bedwin as sister brands sharing the same base. What’s the concept behind this joint creation?
MW: From our experience at Tenderloin, we decided to create two labels at the same time in order to avoid any kind of creativity conflict. Hue and I share a lot in common but our sources of inspiration are different. He’s been influenced a lot by his three years spent in NY while I’ve been more in touch with the London art scene.
Deluxe is Hue’s vision of street fashion and Bedwin represents mine, our likenesses and differences are expressed in our clothes.
Let’s take a closer look at Deluxe and Bedwin 08-09 fall/winter collection. What can you tell us about each respective upcoming line?
MW: This winter, my collection has been created from vintage second-hand clothes that i destroyed and re-built my way. Durable, comfortable and stylish.
HK: For this collection, I’ve been inspired by different aspect of the New York countryside. I’ve always liked the way a stylish New Yorker dresses when they go to spend the weekend in their cabin upstate. That’s the concept behind my work for this coming collection, a stylish citizen visiting the countryside. I used a lot of knot and corduroy fabrics with warm and earthtone colors such as brown and dark yellow.
Clothing from Bedwin
Clothing from Deluxe
Can we expect some collaborations with other streetwear labels?
MW: I’ve been working with Dickies for the past two years and I did it again this year. I like the way they work, I like to wear their clothes and the prices are still reasonable.
I’m not into doing big collaborations just to create a buzz, i prefer to keep total control of my product.
HK: We just did a collaboration with Russell moccasin for our footwear line but that’s all.
Both Deluxe and Bedwin seem to gain in popularity amongst the Japanese street-fashion scene but also abroad through the Internet. Do you have any plan to export your brand’s spirit in the near future?
HK: We are definitely interested in exporting our labels abroad, but we want to do it carefully in order to keep track of our product. Asia’s major metropolis’ are definitely our target. Beijing, Hong Kong or Taipei represent emerging market for the Japanese fashion industry that’s why it will be great for both Deluxe and Bedwin to be represented in such cities.
What’s your feeling about the creation of a HOODS store (WTAPS / Neighborhood) in Hong Kong?
MW: As a business, well done! But I don’t know, it might be also dangerous to go big abroad and remain unique within the Japanese market. It’s a commercial decision that I respect. I admire a lot Shinsuke (from Neighborhood) and Tetsu (from WTAPS), they did a lot for the Tokyo’s scene, but I don’t know if I would have go the same way.
How would you define the current state of the Japanese street fashion?
MW: Nowadays, it’s quiet chaotic. Ten years ago, we witnessed a boom into the Japanese street fashion market, professionals from all around the world flew to Tokyo to get inspired by our new trends. Now, we are getting into the winter of Japanese fashion, amongst all the brands founded during the past decade, only the most creative ones will remain in business. It’s a natural process.
I know you guys find inspiration in everything around you, music, movies, art. What have you been into lately?
MW: Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of 80’s American cheesy high school movies. Music wise, my speakers are blasting mostly 90’s hip hop, rock’s classics and world music (Spanish, Indian, Moroccan sounds).
HK: Last week i went down to the theater to see The Dark Knight. Fantastic performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker.
Interview: Jey Perie
Translation: Mariko Gale
Photography: Hajime Kamiiisaka