Welcome back to Classic Clothing Conversations! In this episode, I sat down with Benedikt Fries, founder and owner of the classic menswear accessories label Shibumi. He graciously took the time to talk about his insight and passion for creating tasteful and elegant accessories.
How did you get into the bespoke tailoring?
I don’t exactly remember anymore. The only relationship was with my grandfather, he used to go to the tailor for this suits but he wasn’t necessarily interested in fashion at all. He is from an age where it was normal to go to the tailor to get the suit made instead of going the shop. In general, I always care a lot about what I wear. It is so much more interesting to make something for yourself that is handmade than something that is produced in a big factory somewhere in China.
Did you study fashion?
Laughing – No, I didn’t study anything, I studied 10 days of economy and then I quit university. I opened my first business when I was 21 years old. University doesn’t fit my character.
Are there certain influencers that influence your style?
Not really, I don’t even follow any menswear accounts on Instagram. The only thing I follow on Instagram is related to geishas; I’m really into the Japanese culture. For my color inspiration, I look at traditional kimonos they wear and I have tons of book about geishas.
Can you look at a person and know what kind of style and colors would fit them?
I know this might sounds arrogant, but most of our customers trust what I recommend them. I think this is not only for Shibumi but it’s mostly like this in in the menswear world.
What is the meaning of the word Shibumi?
It is an esthetic concept in Japanese culture. It means something that catches your eye not because it’s flashy but because it’s so perfect in every detail and that is why it is catches your eye. That is what I try to do with Shibumi. I read the word on a blog once and really liked the concept and meaning.
Is the subculture from Japan inspiring to you?
Yes, absolutely. The bespoke world is a subculture. We are nerds in suits. You have to see this a subculture.
A famous stylist once said before you leave the house, check your outfit in the mirror and take one thing off. How do you find a balance in your outfits?
I don’t think much about this anymore. Of course, I used to but after several years you know what works and what not. I have ton of rules.
Is styling a feeling that comes naturally to you?
Yes, it comes totally naturally for me. This is not something that you can learn. You can dress very well even if you have no taste but you listen to the correct people. But if you just do what well dressed people recommend you can listen to this but this doesn’t mean you have a feeling for this.
Is this a talent that you have?
I think so, I hope so at least. Not only for fashion but just a sense for esthetics in general like architecture, photography. I always care about beauty. Just an example, last time I was in Japan and took a train for 3 hours, we sat down in one coach and the seats had a bright strong orange and I didn’t like this color. The next coach had very nice blue seats and I asked my friend to change the seats. So we had to buy new tickets and we changed seats. I’m always that picky with beauty.
In an area of fashion that is steeped in tradition, how do you keep things modern for the 21st century man?
What we do is really classic, most classic than other businesses. Other classic brands also create some casual stuff but we don’t do this. I only wear suit and tie. But at the same time it’s really important for me to not look old fashioned – I still want to look like I’m from 2018! I don’t want to have a 20’s look because it all comes down to the cut, colors and patterns.
In terms of different materials and patterns, how do you combine them?
I personally really like the floral print but we also make a lot of stripes. I think you can wear a lot of patterns together, sometimes 4 or 5 at the same time. But you have to make sure the size of the pattern is different. If you have to patterns at the same size you are going wrong. Make sure the stripes have a different width when you wear two stripes together. I like stripes with stripes, but not check on check. I can’t really explain why but somehow this looks to busy. I also don’t like checkered shirts.
What are some trends that you’re ready to leave behind?
The raglan coats. It can look good but it doesn’t suit most men. You need to be tall, skinny and big shoulders. Like a trenchcoat, it is difficult garment but the cut doesn’t suit many body shapes.
In terms of bespoke tailoring do you see trends coming back in womens fashion?
No, zero. I have zero knowledge about womenswear but I don’t think it is necessary for women. They are so much more options for women and variations with different designs, shapes and it is more interesting to play with this.
You mean women can be more expressive how they dress?
Yes, more fancy. For example, when I pass by the Gucci store, I really like this for women. For me or for men, I don’t like this.
Do you ever wear sneakers?
No, I don’t have sneakers. The only one I wear are my sport shoes. Even when I’m on vacation, I wear suits. In Kyoto, I love to walk around I usually walk 10 to 12 KM a day but I wear suit and tie.
What common mistakes makes man when it comes to fit & proportions?
You have to understand your own body. You don’t look at pictures from people that dress well. People look at pretty people on Instagram but that doesn’t work because everybody is having their own style to choose the correct shape and lapel size.
If you could give an advice to people who would like to become an influencer?
Don’t listen to what I say, I have my own opinions. Watching stuff is so much more important. It is about esthetic and you have to see this with your own eyes. If you really want to learn it you have to see it. For bespoke, watch tailors at work. I spend so many hours to see what tailors are doing.
Videographer: Olivia wahlgren (Instagram: @livphoto.co)