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Q&A December, 18 2012

Reporting on Asia Q&A with Yuji Yamazaki, Dir. BEAMS International Gallery

Medium Concepts’ Paul Conrad, spends a good deal of time traveling through the retail circle of Asia. Conrad, himself fluent in Japanese, takes particular interest in the current retail experiences throughout Far East. Today, in the first of an on-going short interview series, Conrad, speaks with Yuji Yamazaki, director of BEAMS International Gallery.

What Is Fashion To Japan?

As WW2 came to an end, Americans were ever- present in Japan, at the time obviously those that were stationed there. Outside of their general military get-up, Japan for the first time were able to view “Yo-fuku”, which means “Western-Wear” Guys wearing boots, levis, etc –  before this there was no western wear, only ” Wa-fuku” which means “Japan-wear”- kimonos, robes, etc.

Japanese soon fell fond of the “Yo-fuku”, which at the time was what we now call American-casual, or for short, we call it ” Ame-kaji”.  That was the turning point culturally for Japan in many ways, including the beginning of how Japan dresses today.

Also Manners-  Japan has “manners” or attention to details, that are very specific, part of the lifestyle. I think that is what is unique about Japan.  They really get deep into it all, and want to perfect each thing. Clothing, interior design, etc – there is detail, there is ” manner”.

How Did You Get Into The Position You Are In Today? 

When I look back at it, there are two types of careers in fashion that have formed in Japan. One is the college system, where you get a business degree at a good school, and approach fashion with a corporate angle, a numbers angle – which usually leads you to work for department stores etc.

The second way, which is where I came from –  for the love of it. You start working retail at shops that carry your favorite labels or concepts, and work your way up to managers, then buyers, directors etc.  We did it because we were clothing /fashion junkies, and this speaks for many of us that that have been here from the early stages of Beams.

I think this is the case for ” select- stores” (which is a very unique to Japan) and people who have worked to shape this concept, retailers that house “selects” from all over the world, giving us  a mission to introduce new themes, new lifestyles to the public, which is purely for the love of the game.

What Is The DNA/Origin Of Beams, And BEAMS International Gallery?

When Beams was launched, the concept was very simple. The mission was to create a lifestyle/ look of a West Coast college student  and his dorm room.  What he collected, what he walked out the door in etc.  That was practically the start of Beams.

It was like, Nike running shoes – check, Levis- check ,  etc which sounds so standard, but this hadn’t been done yet in Japan.

What is interesting about this, is that  the whole ” preppy” ” Ivy league “American casual look “, the Ame-kaji” look has been making a full comeback to the industry, but since Japan has been doing this in particular for so long, they actually are the ones recreating a majority of it, and getting enormous attention from the industry – internationally speaking.

Beams International Gallery was a division launched a few years after Beams started,  but instead of focusing on American casual, we went deep beyond that, we went searching globally.  That was what the origin of the BEAMS INTERNATIONAL GALLERY. It was meant to showcase cultures from around the world through clothes, beyond America.  Today it still stays the same.

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