Just as it was the first time round, Japanese select store Beams’ return is a pop-up affair. Is one of Tokyo’s most recognisable retail names destined to be a short-time fling on our shores?
By Raiment Young
I get this nagging feeling that a couple or so retailers are trying very hard to bring Beams to Singapore, but none are confident that it’ll be successful enough to warrant regular shop space in a retail landscape of not so regular rentals. In 2014, the Hong Kong-based, multi-label store Kapok brought Beams not to the mall near you, but to its confines at the National Design Centre. It was a 30-day pop-up, enmeshed within the somewhat chaotic layout of Kapok, with merchandise that differentiated not from those of the store that hosted them.
Beams’ quiet departure after that brief intro to Singaporean shoppers suggested to me that it fared insufficiently well for Kapok to extend its run or to give it a chance in its own freestanding space. Although Japan has been, for a long time, a favourite holiday destination among Singaporeans, and clothing brands, such as Beams, are familiar, if not popular, these names do not, curiously, have enough pull for shoppers here to be interested in them to the point that they deserve strong physical presence here. I suppose Lumine is an exception, but it isn’t certain that it is a model of Japanese select store success yet.
Beams’ sophomore outing here is undertaken by Colony Clothing, a Japanese-owned, Singapore-based clothier with a single store at the off-the-beaten UE Square. The Beams pop-up is, in fact, a two-site set-up: one in Takashimaya Shopping Centre, and the other in Colony Clothing’s own store, with the former operating till December, while the latter will be available till early next year. Curiously, both pop-ups close two weeks or so before the twin mega-shopping seasons of the year—Christmas and Chinese New Year respectively.
I did not trek down to UE Square; I chose to visit Beams at Taka instead, as I was making a trip to Kinokuniya, where I was hoping to find a copy of Thrust: A Spasmodic Pictorial History of the Codpiece in Art. But Beams came first. Actually, it’s hard to miss. The space—called “spot” by Colony Clothing—is on, well, a spot, previously occupied by many other brands, such as Aveda, if I remember correctly. Unusually, it looks very much like a pop-up, rising from a traffic intersection of sort and not circumscribed by walls or windows; it’s not even configured as a regular square or rectangle.
The heptagonal spot is quite a tight space, which means the merchandise on offer do not enjoy a terribly large SKU. Basically split into two unequal sections, with the men’s taking up the larger and the women’s occupying the other, linked by a rack for both, Beams is stocked with products that tend to err on the side of the too-basic. I risk throwing on you the proverbial wet blanket if I tell you not to expect too much, but this is, in truth, not a miniature of the Beams flagship in Shinjuku. Apart from the clothing, some simple totes, and a couple of pairs of shoes, there are none of the cute/quirky accessories and the fun and useful knick-knacks that Beams is also known for.
I suspect the buying reflects Colony Clothing’s known climate-correct merchandising, which may also take into consideration Singaporean’s lack of interest in things not terribly practical. Opened in 2014 by Kozo Kawamura and Kensuke Sato, two former colleagues at Beams (now you see!), Colony Clothing is where fashion-correct (not necessarily forward) guys go for their sartorial fix, and this, I have been told, includes suits with relaxed cuts and in fabrication that allows wearers to embrace non-air-conditioned spaces. The store is consistently considered one of the best offering men’s wear on our island, with enough of the unexpected to encourage repeat visits (on one of those, I scored my first pair of Premiata sneakers). With Beams to add a feather to their cap, perhaps, also the most willing to give the former a winning chance.
Beams is opened till 6 November at B2, Takashimaya S.C. (in front of Scotch & Soda) and till 17 January 2020 at Colony Clothing, UE Square. Photos: Gallery Gombak