Masafumi ‘Bebe’ Watanabe
The ever-evolving silhouette of Tokyo’s streetwear
The Ever-Evolving Silhouette Of Tokyo’s Streetwear
Masafumi ‘Bebe’ Watanabe is the Founder and Director of BEDWIN & THE HEARTBREAKERS and an aficionado when it comes to Tokyo’s extraordinary fashion and streetwear scene. “After World War II, Japanese people lost a lot of the culture that we’d thrived in and appreciated. In order to get back in touch with it and ourselves, we had to work hard to figure out what we liked and enjoyed.”
“Before the Internet, Japan was very isolated so we imitated other cultures with an interpretation that adapted to our lifestyle — this created an enjoyable twist. And we discovered that sub-cultures had the power to change our lives for the better, so Japanese designers and crafts have been growing ever since.”
Growing up in Tokyo, Bebe floated around the city consuming the various subcultures that would draw him to fashion design and form the building blocks of his future brand. “I made friends through skateboarding, cycling, football and the brands I wore. I remember how impressed I was by the stories behind Nike, adidas, Puma, Converse — I felt a strong connection and loyalty to those brands. I was experiencing Tokyo street fashion culture in the mid 90s when I was in my mid 20s, which was really inspiring, and sparked the first strong interest within me.”
Bebe started his label BEDWIN in 2004 — its ethos spawned from travelling the world and collecting cultural signifiers where he went. Appropriately, the label’s name comes from Bedouin, the nomadic people who dwell in the North African desert. His goal was to design after streetwear: “I wanted to create a brand that people could wear on a daily basis, but at that time, there was only one type of streetwear with very little variation; the ‘young age streetwear’. So I planned to do a new smart-casual style that would come afterwards. It would be based on street fashion but mixed with tailored suiting, high-end jewellery, vintage watches, and would look more grown up — while still having youthful components.”
Although made in Japan, Bedwin riffs on simple American styling (think varsity jackets) but is reconstructed and altered in the details — paying special attention to sizing and the silhouette. The pieces range from three-piece suits with a casual twist to structured streetwear with clean lines. Considered features set it apart, such as playing with stitching and incorporating the fabric label on the outside as an aspect of the design.
‘We discovered that sub-cultures had the power to change our lives for the better, so Japanese designers and crafts have been growing ever since.’
Masafumi Watanabe, 2020
‘I believe the functional and educational aspects of a good design are essential and are those which drive me to be a better person.’
Masafumi Watanabe, 2020
“What I find inspiring about America is their music, movies, skateboarding and hip hop culture, even though most of it has European influence and is based on DIY culture. They are great at creating freely, without any restraints. The 2020 Autumn Winter took inspiration from the grunge culture of Seattle in the mid 90s — bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sound Garden.”
Bebe also owns a few select stores in Tokyo that not only differentiate themselves through their offering but also their interiors. His most recent store DAYZ opened in the summer of 2020 in Shibuya and sells a variety of sneaker and Tokyo-based streetwear brands.
“Human touch is the most important aspect of my stores, because their vibes were created through D.I.Y. I didn’t want them to look perfect or machine made. It’s becoming harder and harder to find stores like this in Tokyo because a lot of them are run by big corporations.”
Whether he’s designing fashion, art or a new concept store, Bebe is first and foremost driven by the practical: “I believe the functional and educational aspects of a good design are essential and are those which drive me to be a better person.”