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A chat with Kohei Mizumura of BEAMS T

Matt Blease has recently collaborated with BEAMS T for a project we’ll be telling you about soon. BEAMS T is the t-shirt division (and store) of Japanese fashion brand and retailer BEAMS. BEAMS was started in 1976, originally specialising in men’s fashion. Today, they’ve expanded to take in women’s fashion, household goods and more, and have a global reach and reputation. BEAMS T began as a separate entity in 2002, and, under the concept Art for Every Day, has become known for collaborations with artists around the world. We caught up with BEAMS T Director Kohei Mizumura to find out more.

Have you been with BEAMS T since the start?

BEAMS T started in 2001 and I joined in 2006, when I became a full-time member of staff.

How did you get into fashion?

I think music has always been a big influence. I was very much into the East Coast hip hop culture when I was a teenager, and the music videos and the artworks on record sleeves were where I got my inspirations from. Brands such as Ralph Lauren, Timberland and Helly Hansen were my favourites and I referenced a lot of the styles rappers wore back in the days. As well as music, I would always check the tagging, photographers and graphic designers that worked on the piece.

It was also around the time when hip hop culture started to be recognised and the fashion scene started featuring the style in Japan. I would see the magazines and go check out the shops that imported clothes and goods from the states in Harajuku and Shibuya area all the time. Early ‘90s was when the J-POP movement also got very popular in Japan. I liked the artist Cornelius which led me to Ura-Hara fashion brands such as ‘A Bathing Ape’ and ‘Good Enough’.

And how did you make the connection with BEAMS T?

The reason I wanted to work in BEAMS was the presence of the BEAM T store in Harajuku. I was amazed by the installation of a conveyer belt with the t-shirts going around in the shop, which still exists in the store. I remember buying a ’Paradise Garage’ t-shirt with a graphic ‘Can You Feel It’ in BEAMS T and I instantly thought I would love to work in a store that sells products like these.

I started as a part-timer at BEAMS, but I was then assigned to another men’s label, so I repeatedly applied to get a position in BEAMS T. I finally started working full time for BEAMS T in 2006.

Has it changed since you first joined?

I get to work a lot more closely with many artists. To be able to create something from scratch including events and receptions, we spend vast amount of time together planning with the artists. This is one of the major fascinations of working for the label.

What makes an artist right for a BEAMS T?

We work with artists who have unique backgrounds and ideas – someone with an established style is who we choose to work with.

Where do you find the artists you collaborate with?

I always look out for artists on social media and people around my community as well. It is such a small world where a lot of small communities exist, and quite often artists are connected. A lot of the times collaborations happen organically and I think that is the strength of BEAMS T. We are a very flexible team. At the same time, we don’t want to just follow trends, so we try our best to come up with original, exciting collaborations.

What do you look for in a good design for a t-shirt?

I think balance. It’s really about how the artworks sit on a t-shirt. There are many artists and graphic designers who create amazing pieces of work, but we always keep in mind what looks best when their artworks are applied to a t-shirt. 

What attracted you to Matt Blease’s work?

His drawings are just so great. His works are original yet appealing to many audiences. I could imagine how his artworks would sit on a t-shirt instantly. His drawings work very well with BEAMS aesthetically too. We would love to work more with Matt!

Which other artists have you worked with?

We work with various artists from Japan and all over the world. Just too many to mention!

Do you have any personal favourite BEAMS T designs?

BEAMS T’s concept is ‘Art for Everyday’ and we commission artists to design t-shirts using this slogan twice every year. My favourites are the t-shirts that Parra and Stefan Marks designed for this series. Another one would be the t-shirts that Kosuke Kawamura designed. He is a collage artist and I personally think he is a genius. We have also been doing an ongoing collaboration with Goodhood in London, and we worked with artists Face and Shinknownsuke for the last event. They are such great people and the collaboration turned out to be successful. A triple collaboration with the artist Yusuke Hanai and Patagonia was also a memorable one. Lastly, my favourite from my the very latest collaboration is the Larry Clark collection where we’ve featured three of his films ‘Ken Park’, ‘Wassup Rockers’ and ‘Marfa Girl’.

Do you enjoy art more widely?

I love manga. We should be proud of the manga culture we have in Japan, and I think it’s equivalent to art.

Are there any artists, living or dead, whose work you’d like to see on a BEAMS t-shirt?

Geoff Mcfetridge, Joan Cornellà, Timothy Curtis, PERSUE, Teito Nomiyama, Mayumi Yamase, Margaret Kilgallen.

Where can you currently get hold of BEAMS T t-shirts?

Besides our BEAMS T Harajuku flagship store, we have them in 13 other BEAMS stores in Japan, as well as on the BEAMS EC website.