The Many Faces of Beams: Sub-labels and Collaborations
Japanese menswear giant Beams has laid the foundations for contemporary men’s style on the streets of Japan in a way that no other brand has. But, the brand’s impact reaches much further than the islands it calls home. Beams is internationally renowned and known the world over as a style leader and creative innovator. Earlier this month we looked at the history of Beams and its impact on the world of menswear and with over 150 stores worldwide, Beams is a leading lifestyle retailer that you need to know about. We’re going to look more closely at the plethora of sub-labels (30, to be exact) and notable collaborations which the brand has been involved with over the last 40+ years.
While Beams began by offering the lifestyle of a West Coast college campus, it quickly diversified its offering and broadened its sources of inspiration. From East Coast to ivy and workwear to avant-garde, Beams became specialists in vastly different areas of fashion. To support this growth and expansion, the brand created many sub-labels to cater for each unique taste and style. Now with 30 sub-labels under the brand, diversity has become key to the cultural curation presented by Beams.
The core offering of the brand is the Beams casual line which has been a mainstay since the brand’s inception in 1976. The brand states this line offers “basic and exciting” casual basics with a hint of ivy, rock, surf, and skate styles. Reflecting trends from around the globe and tipping their hat to various historic subcultures, this is the roots of Beams style. You can follow Beams on Instagram here.
Started in 1999 and harkening back to the beginnings of the brand, Beams Plus has gone from strength to strength over the last two decades. With authenticity and attention to detail being key tenets for this sub-label, fabrics and fits are highly considered and mixed with a timeless aesthetic which remembers “the good-old American styles that Beams grew up on”. More than simple nostalgia or sentimentality, Beams Plus is the “pursuit of authenticity in next-generation casual wear”. Expect to see military parkas and smocks, classic Ivy button-downs, and chinos, all combined with a contemporary Japanese fit. With the latest lookbook entitled ‘All You Need is Ivy’, this should give you a feel for this popular sub-label. You can follow Beams Plus Harajuku on Instagram here.
Originally labeled Beams Modern Living, Fennica was launched in 2003 and presents a bridge between design and craft. With a strong focus on traditional Japanese crafts and Northern European design, the sub-label theme is one of “less global, more local”. Encompassing fashion and lifestyle, you can expect to see everything from mid-century Scandinavian furniture, handmade rare Japanese pottery and collaborative garment collections with brands like orSlow, Buzz Rickson’s and Moonstar. What makes Fennica distinct is that Beams has created a world where art, design, fashion, and craft merge, as a result of innovative buyers who have been years ahead of the curve. This is a sub-label that offers products you’re very unlikely to see elsewhere for real aficionados of well-made objects. To see the inner workings of Fennica, go and follow a pioneer of the brand and all-around style guru Terry Ellis and you can follow this sub-label on Instagram here.
With ‘F’ signifying the future, Beams F was launched in 1978 shortly after Beams was established. At this time, the brand has started to think about expansion and diversifying its cultural curation to include elements of European style classics, naturally mixed with Japanese and American aesthetics. The offering includes finely tailored suiting and elegant casual wear for the modern gentleman. This sartorial off-shoot of Beams was notoriously difficult to source outside of Japan but in 2019, menswear destination Mr. Porter offered the collection for the first time. To get a glimpse into the mind of Beams F, go and follow Shuhei Nishiguchi, director and buyer of the sub-label. You can follow this sub-label on Instagram here.
International Gallery Beams
Founded in 1981, International Gallery Beams has a focus on international trends. From sophisticated and luxury products alongside different design concepts, this sub-label keeps things cutting edge with a fashion-forward mindset. With a men’s and women’s offering, International Gallery Beams showcases upcoming young designers as well as established labels. You can follow this sub-label on Instagram here.
Pilgrim Surf + Supply
A surf and skate brand originally hailing from Brooklyn, NY, Pilgrim Surf + Supply’s initial collaboration with Beams led to the two brands working closely together on a continual basis. Now with dedicated space in Japan courtesy of Beams, Pilgrim Surf + Supply blends nature and urban, resulting in a lifestyle based around outdoor activities and American east coast culture. You can follow Pilgrim Surf + Supply on Instagram here.
With such a strong focus on cultural curation and an eye for design, it was almost inevitable that Beams would venture into the music world at one point or another. Founded in 1999, Beams Records was established to introduce the latest trends as well as timeless music from all genres. The store also stocks audio merchandise including headphones, speakers, tube amps, and associated accessories. In the words of Beams, this sub-label “believes in a life enriched through music”.
Similar to Beams Records and Fennica, this sub-label touches on art, craft, and design through fashion. From the early years of the company in the late 1970s, Beams has always kept a close eye on the art world. The brand states that “B Gallery is a culture-transcending space made to meet our ideas for creating new joy for the next generation”.
Harkening back to the core offering of the brand, Beams Boy was established in 1998 for women who “love the strength and function” found in men’s fashion. There is an emphasis on key menswear items and classic garments including chambray shirts and souvenir jackets, focusing on function and substance through fashion. An ever-popular line which continues to meet demand from the brand’s female customers. You can follow Beams Boy Harajuku on Instagram here.
Bill Wall Leather
Established in Malibu, California in 1985, Bill Wall Leather is known for outstanding craftsmanship, attention to detail and heritage references. Hardly a surprise that when Beams met Bill Wall Leather in 1997, the two brands hit it off. They have since “held mutual respect for one another” which has led to numerous collaborative events and products. Bill Wall Leather now offers exclusive lines developed in conjunction with Beams. Expect to see beautifully handcrafted rings, bracelets, and pendants with iconic imagery like skulls, crosses butterflies, stars and dragons. You can follow Beams x Bill Wall Leather on Instagram here.
In addition to its various sub-labels, collaboration has been essential to the Beams approach and they’ve become a known to create some of the most interesting and memorable collaborations on the market. Working with brands from the expected to the unusual, Beams has developed close relationships with carefully selected partners as a result of passionate brand directors and innovative buyers. Since very early on, Beams sought out companies they wanted to work with and often took existing product but added a Beams twist. They’ve continued to do this over the last 40 years and it’s resulted in some iconic partnerships and a hugely diverse range of product. From Porter to Motorola, we’re going to highlight some of the most notable and unexpected collaborations Beams has brought to market over the past few decades.
Working with artistic and design talents has been a continuous theme throughout Beams’ history. For this occasion, the brand teamed up with famed illustrator and artist Hiroshi Nagai to create advertisements in which Nagai paints a number of images the brands love for Americana and mid-century art.
Beams has collaborated with Maine based outdoor wear veterans L.L. Bean on a number of occasions, most notably taking two iconic pieces of American fashion and giving them a distinctly Beams twist. The Original Maine Hunting Shoe (or ‘duck boot’ as it is commonly referred to) and Boat & Tote were both given subtle adjustments making them distinct in the Japanese fashion landscape.
Honda x Tamiya
One of the more surprising collaborations, Beams teamed up with their home country allies Honda and Tamiya to produce a 1/10th scale electric radio controlled car based on the Beams Integra. The full-scale version was driven to a first and second place finish in the 2001 Tokachi 24 hours endurance race.
Heritage heavyweights Tailor Toyo (the umbrella company for Buzz Rickson’s, Sugar Cane and Sun Surf) partnered with Beams Boy to offer a vintage replica quilted souvenir jacket. Popular in the aftermath of the Second World War with GIs on occupation duty, the souvenir jacket soon became a fashion classic largely as a result of the Japanese love for Americana in the post-war years which led to the creation of Beams in 1976.
Levi’s is yet another brand who Beams has worked with on more than one occasion, the meeting of these East and West giants has led to a number of collaborations including a special order of 513 jeans from the SS13 collection which was sold exclusively at Beams before being offered elsewhere. The Beams logo adorned the legendary two horse back patch. The pair also released a distressed 505 featuring paint splatter and fading. Most recently the pair teamed up for the ‘Inside Out’ collection which took an unconventional approach and turned denim garments inside out to reveal a number of otherwise hidden details.
If you were to pick a likely collaboration for a brand like Beams, it would probably be Yoshida Porter. Having worked together on a number of occasions, these two icons of Japanese style have released a number of limited edition items over the years. Perhaps most notably a bucket hat featuring Milton Glaser’s iconic ‘I Love New York’ logo designed in 1977, complete with side pocket and Porter box label. For the 40th anniversary of Beams, the brands also released a series of Porter’s famous Tanker bags in faded-indigo nylon twill.
Another Japanese cult brand that has risen to prominence in the last two decades is Loopwheeler. Making sweatshirts the old-fashioned way on some of Japan’s few remaining hanging knitting machines, Loopwheeler offers a slice of heritage for the contemporary market. A relationship that has continued to flourish with more than one collaboration, these limited editions knits with Beams have been expectedly popular.
It would make sense for Beams to work with a mainstay American heritage like Red Wing, given the brand’s beginnings and obsession with Americana. Beams worked with Red Wing on a limited edition 6” round toe in indigo blue which reproduced the original design that rose to prominence in Japan during the Shibuya boom of the 1990s.
Danner x Briefing
Always one for searching out the authentic and original, Beams partnered with two outdoor giants on a limited-edition capsule of luggage and boots. Channeling both contemporary workwear fashions and functional outdoor gear, the Danner x Briefing x Beams collection looked equally at home on the streets of Harajuku as it did in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.
Coca Cola x Human Made
Taking inspiration from the vast archive of fashion and streetwear mogul Nigo, Beams partnered with Human Made and Coca Cola to produce a collection which reinterpreted iconic workwear pieces from the early twentieth century. Think classic advertising mixed with candy stripe chore coats and you’re in the right neighborhood.