The Portfolio

Six Style Insiders On The Future Of Menswear

At Milan’s Bar Basso, a well-dressed crowd test-drives MR PORTER’s exclusive international launch of Japanese brand Beams F

  • Hat and sunglasses, model’s own

If you’ve ever consumed more than one negroni in a single sitting, then you’ll understand the appeal of the “negroni sbagliato”, a twist on the classic cocktail invented in the 1972 by Mr Mirko Stocchetto, then owner of Milan’s legendary Bar Basso. Whereas a standard negroni comprises three equal measures of Campari, vermouth rosso and gin – that’s two varieties of fortified wine topped up with a neat spirit – Mr Stocchetto’s “messed up” negroni substitutes the gin for prosecco. Not only does this add a zip of effervescence, but by docking a couple of percentage points off the ABV, it also helps to ensure that Bar Basso’s customers are able to make it through aperitivo hour with their faculties largely intact.

What’s aperitivo hour, you ask? For those who haven’t had the pleasure, think of it as a more sophisticated version of happy hour. Every day at around 6.00pm, Italians up and down the country pour out of their offices and into aperitivo bars to unwind, enjoy a drink (or two) and work up an appetite before dinner. This quintessentially Italian tradition took on a distinctly Japanese flavour at last month’s Milan Fashion Week, as a who’s-who from the world of men’s style descended on Bar Basso to toast the global launch of Beams F, a tailoring and casualwear line founded in Tokyo in 1978 and now available (on MR PORTER, of course) for the first time ever outside of Japan. What did they make of it all? Pour yourself an aperitivo and read on...

MR SHUHEI NISHIGUCHI, fashion director, Beams F

In an age of footloose job-hoppers, Mr Shuhei Nishiguchi is something of an anomaly in that he has only ever worked for one company. He joined Beams while he was still a student, working part-time as a sales assistant in his local department store before eventually earning himself a transfer to the Tokyo headquarters and a promotion to his current role as fashion director of Beams F. As of 2019, he has been at for the company for 18 years. Along with his responsibilities as a designer and buyer, he is also something of a brand ambassador through his popular Instagram account.

Can you tell us what Beams F is all about?

Beams originally started as an American-style casualwear brand. Beams F was founded in 1978, over 40 years ago, just as a way of presenting an alternative style. The F stands for “future”. It’s about taking classic shapes and twisting them to add something contemporary and to reflect what’s happening now.

Fabrics play a big role in the collection. Many of the pieces were made in Italy with Italian fabrics. Why?

When we design a new collection for Beams F, we don’t want to mess too much with the shape. We want to keep it as authentic as we can. So, we use different fabrics, and especially different patterns, as a way of bringing newness.

Is it normal for people to work at Beams for as long as you have?

It’s not unusual. It’s company policy for every employee to work on the shop floor first before they get promoted to another department. But it hasn’t felt like a long time at all. I’ve been following my passion; the title, the job, the responsibilities, everything else has just been a side-effect.

We see you on Instagram a lot, you’re quite the style icon!

[Laughs.] Thanks. It started as a hobby, as it does with everybody, but since getting my followers, I think it now takes up about half of my time…

Do you have any style icons of your own that inform the collections?

We look at a lot of old films such as Plein Soleil, Casablanca, Sir Sean Connery-era James Bond – stuff from the 1960s, when costume departments made real clothes.

MR LUKE LEITCH, freelance fashion correspondent

Mr Luke Leitch was in town to deliver his verdict on the week’s menswear shows to the readers of Vogue Runway, the American fashion magazine’s online portal for up-to-the-minute catwalk coverage. He visited Bar Basso for a swift drink on his way to the Prada show – only to return shortly afterwards when he realised he’d forgotten his phone.

You’re a man with many hats, figuratively speaking. Could you briefly describe what it is that you do?

Well, along with my work for Vogue Runway I also work with Vogue Italia, I’m the so-called “editor at large” for L’Uomo Vogue, I’m fashion editor of a magazine called 1843 and I freelance for various people and brands. I suppose it’s what you’d call a “portfolio career”. You could say I’m a digital nomad, if I were of the digital generation.

More of an analogue nomad, then?

Something like that. An analogue vagrant.

You watch a lot of fashion shows. You can’t love them all. How important is your own opinion when passing judgement?

I try to take my personal taste out of the equation, but only to an extent. Some shows, you know you’re going to love them. Others, not so much. Then, it becomes a case of looking at what the designers are trying to articulate and putting it in some kind of context for the benefit of the readers. Some brands aren’t necessarily trying to speak to a 44-year-old from London. I’m just not their target market.

We’re here in Milan marking the global launch of a 40-year-old menswear brand from Tokyo. Do you see a connection between Japanese and Italian style?

They both know their clothes, that’s for sure. Japan in particular seems to have an incredibly discerning, almost maniacally detailed consumer culture, while Italy has this very deep and rich “fatto a mano” [handmade] tradition.

Why do you suppose this is?

Well, both countries have highly refined, long-standing textile cultures. You could mention the silk mills in Biella in Northern Italy, for instance, or Japan’s own centuries-old silk-making tradition. And both of these traditions were industrialised during the late 19th and 20th centuries, to great effect.

With business dress codes becoming more relaxed, where do you see the suit right now?

I think that the suit has been a uniform for the establishment for years, and thanks to digital disruption we’re going through a period when everyone’s questioning the role of the establishment. So, you know, it’s natural that people are going to want to dress differently. But on the other hand, look around you. Plenty of people in Milan still wear suits. In London, on the Tube, they’re everywhere, too. As tends to be the case with fashion, I suspect that what goes around comes around.

MR YOSHIMASA HOSHIBA, editor-in-chief, Forza Style

Mr Yoshimasa Hoshiba’s style is all studied perfection, the culmination of a lifelong pursuit of a singular sartorial ideal. Everything from the flannel of his suit (Fox Brothers & Co) to the make of his watch (Vacheron Constantin) has been selected because it is, in his opinion, the very best. And he should know. His father and his grandfather were both tailors, and as editor-in-chief of Forza Style, he presides over one of Japan’s most respected menswear publications.

How did you get started in the men’s fashion industry?

I used to model for a few fashion magazines when I was younger. I was never really cut out for it, though. I didn’t like being told what to do and what to wear. After a while, I realised that I wanted to be the one making the decisions. I wanted to work as an editor, but to be an editor you need qualifications and I’d never been to university. Luckily, I managed to secure an internship at MA-1 Magazine through a contact that I’d met through modelling. I’ve been working my way up ever since.

The name of your magazine, Forza Style, implies a strong Italian influence. Is this true of your own sense of style, too?

I prefer to think of it as a “global style”. The jacket I’m wearing is from Beams, a Japanese brand using Italian fabrics; the shirt and tie are bespoke; the uppers of the shoes I’m wearing are French, the sole is Italian, and the shoe is constructed in England; the watch is Swiss.

How has your attitude to style changed over the years?

It hasn’t changed at all. I’ve had the same style for my entire adult life. I’ve just been refining it for the last 20 years using knowledge that I’ve gained from the people I’ve met and brands I’ve come across in my career.

What drives you to seek out the best?

I’m always trying to reach the summit, whether it’s in my career or in the clothes that I wear. Perhaps it’s because I never finished my education. I’ve always thought of myself as the underdog!

What does the life of a modern editor-in-chief involve?

It’s fast-moving and visual. Instagram is important; my phone is my most important tool. When I identify something that I should focus on, I use all possible communication channels to get the message across to as many people as possible.

Do you have a style icon?

Gianni Agnelli, Diego Della Valle, Sergio and Pier Luigi Loro Piana, Mr Brunello Cucinelli and Mr Franco Minucci. Also Prince Charles, closely followed by James Bond.

MR ROBERT RABENSTEINER, stylist and fashion consultant

Mr Robert Rabensteiner’s impressive hat was a standout sight at this year's Milan Fashion Week. The stylist and fashion editor to whom it belongs has lived in this city for 23 years, working mostly during that time for L’Uomo Vogue. His busy life as a brand consultant means that he doesn’t get the chance to visit Bar Basso quite as often as he’d like, but he’s still the man to ask if you’re looking for a good truffle risotto.

You described Beams F earlier as having a casual elegance “with a Japanese touch”. What did you mean by that?

It’s the attention to detail. The fabrics, the silhouette, the styling. It just feels so contemporary. When I consult for a brand such as Moncler, for instance, and they want to take a garment and make it more “modern”, I’ll look to Japanese brands and Japanese street style for inspiration.

Milan occupies an interesting place in the menswear world right now. What do you make of it?

Well, there are fewer fashion shows, the days are shorter during Fashion Week, but Italy will always be the kernel, the heart of the menswear world for me. This is where the craft is. Kiton, Caruso, Lardini; these companies really know how to make a suit. The big collections might show in Paris, but they’re produced here.

How has the city changed in your time?

Over the past four years, I’ve seen a big change. Before, it felt like a very small city and everything happened around the centre. But now, with all this generational change, with the design weeks, it’s starting to turn into a very interesting city.

Could you impart a little local knowledge to a hungry first-time visitor?

If we’re talking restaurants, I like Locanda di Solferino. It’s not a “fashion” restaurant, just a very typical Milanese restaurant. It has one of the best truffle risottos. If you ask me for breakfast, I like the Marchesi on Via Monte Napoleone.

MR NICK SULLIVAN, fashion director, Esquire

Mr Nick Sullivan is an old hand in the menswear game. He relocated from London to New York 15 years ago, where he now serves as the fashion director for Esquire magazine and as the editor of Esquire’s Big Black Book. His work takes him to Milan often and Tokyo less often than he’d like.

You’ve been in the business long enough to witness the cyclical nature of fashion first hand. What do you make of the current state of menswear?

It looks like we’re seeing a return to tailoring. Brands that really championed street style are starting to think about doing suits again. It doesn’t feel like a backwards step, though, because the suit represents an unknown for a new generation of buyers.

How do you feel about that?

I think that it’s about time, really. There’s an urge for something new. Some of these big department stores, they now look like the cloakroom in a kindergarten. All these bright colours and big down jackets. And, you know, it’s fun. But it’s like any rich food. After a while, you just crave something simple.

Has anything caught your eye while you’ve been in Italy?

For me, the most interesting stuff is made by the brands that just do their own thing. In Pitti [the menswear trade show in Florence] you see these amazing brands, such as Boglioli or The Gigi, where nothing is ever straightforward. It’s never just a jacket, it’s been overdyed or boil-washed, it’s got incredible buttons on it. It’s clothing with character.

What’s your experience of, and your opinion on, Japanese style and craftsmanship?

You know, if I could spend a month in Japan every year, I absolutely would. It’s a head-swimming thing to wander around menswear stores in Tokyo. The Japanese eye is probably the most acute in terms of styling, in terms of references. It’s increasingly affecting the way that American and European designers view their own clothes, too. It’s almost as if you can create newness in an Italian label by looking at it from the perspective of a Japanese buyer or customer.

Why do you think that certain Japanese brands are so successful at, for instance, Italian-style tailoring?

The Japanese seem to have a way of taking things and perfecting them. It’s interesting that one of the best pizza restaurants in the world is in Tokyo [Seirinkan]. They believe in going to Italy and working in the kitchens of pizza restaurants to perfect the dough, to perfect the toppings, and to learn how to use the ovens. It’s very similar in fashion. You run into tailoring shops all over Milan, Rome or Florence and there’s often a Japanese guy in there working as one of the cutters. And that’s fascinating.

MR OLIE ARNOLD, Style Director, MR PORTER

  • Beams F Slim-Fit Tapered Pleated Linen-Blend Twill Drawstring Trousers Coming soon

As Style Director for MR PORTER, Mr Arnold oversees styling for all of the photoshoots you’ll see here on The Journal. He’s also one of the brains behind our in-house brand, Mr P. Twice a year, he joins the migratory flock of editors and buyers on the Grand Tour of Europe’s fashion capitals. Next stop after Milan? Paris. But first, a drink.

Where have your travels taken you so far in 2019?

Well, I started the year in Berlin with my family, then a quick hop to Amsterdam, before arriving back in London to start work with London Fashion Week Men’s. Before arriving here in Milan, I was in Florence for Pitti and will be heading onto Paris after here for six days as the catwalk shows and presentations continue. So yes, I always have to hit the ground running in January.

Do you find it difficult to pack for such a long trip?

Not really. My style is fairly natural and relaxed, not over the top, so I pick pieces that are versatile and work well with different outfits. I also try to get everything into one case, and perhaps a suit bag for delicate pieces. I’m often having to go to multiple cities, so I don’t want loads to carry around.

What’s one thing you always forget?

For a long time, I always forgot to pack travel adaptors, which is super annoying and expensive, so now I overcompensate. I think I have four with me on this trip.

Do you find that you adapt your style for different countries?

Sometimes. Other than the obvious temperature-change requirements, I also try and respect the local cultures by avoiding anything too showy or that will draw attention to myself. You know how people add an accent to help them blend in with the locals? I kind of do the same thing with my clothing (but not my accent!).

Why did this Beams F collection make sense from a MR PORTER perspective?

We have a great relationship with the Beams family and when we got the opportunity to partner with them and show Beams F outside of Japan for the first time, it was a no brainer. Their attention to detail is second to none. They have pulled out all the stops to create a truly sophisticated collection, which is very much in line with what we try to offer at MR PORTER.

What can customers expect?

A truly fantastic product made from the best fabrics – mostly Italian and Japanese – that is both grown-up and cool. There are some wonderful styling details that nod back to the 1950s and 1960s, such as the knitted T-shirts and polos, but with a silhouette that feels modern. We’re incredibly excited to build on our relationship and I’m sure customers who like this first collection will be hooked on future collections coming out of the Beams F stable.

The Beams F collection