It Takes Two: Shibumi Berlin


Japanese aesthetic, European construction and universal appeal, Shibumi-Berlin was born of the collective vision of Niels Holdorf and Benedikt Fries, friends by coincidence from divergent backgrounds. “Before Shibumi, I studied comparative literature here in Berlin”, says Holdorf. “Benedikt had an apprenticeship as a retail salesman and started a streetwear webshop that he ran for four years. We ran into each other at an event for Stilmagazin, the German-version of StyleForum. When we met, we immediately got along and soon discovered that our talents would compliment each other very well in a business context. We wanted to make our living with something we were passionate about, so we took the plunge – and it works.”

We are a German company with a Japanese name and a predominantly Italian and English aesthetic – and I think it works perfectly.

tn_M_H_0133_LR“Benedikt and I both love classic menswear and did so years before we knew each other”, explains Holdorf. The young duo, both 27 years old, credit their home base of Berlin as the perfect canvas for their creative outlet. “There are no elements of ‘German style” (I wouldn’t even know what this looks like) in our aesthetic”, says Holdorf. “But in another sense our geographical position in the middle of Europe and Germany’s non-descript style allows us to draw inspiration from wherever we want. Berlin is not a city one commonly associates with classic menswear, but I love the city, the people, the atmosphere. It’s an environment where you can literally dress any way you want. The city is really open-minded and tolerant and that’s what I love about it. There’s no place I’d rather be.”

And their business philosophy is quite simple: “There are two internal factors and one external. The  former describe the garment or accessory: quality and design. Both are equally important to us, we want the best quality the market has to offer, the best handwork, the best raw materials. Then, the design: Shibumi is very much about the perfect interpretation of classics; we try to get every tiny detail right. For example on a classic printed tie just the right type of flower print with just the right scale and just the right shade of navy, rust and cream. Then there is the external factor: whether it suits you. You can wear the most beautiful tie in the world – if you are not comfortable in it, if you don’t carry it with ease, if it doesn’t suit you – you will not look good.”

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Shibumi offers classic prints with rich texture, unadulterated and unequivocally stylish. Their selections in design and motif
are relatively compatible, as Holdorf explains, but not without issue: “On 90% of the designs we’re immediately in agreement, but over the remaining 10% we fight fiercely. Mainly, our tastes are very similar, but Benedikt is more extroverted and a little flamboyant, whereas I’m more drawn to simple, understated designs. But in the end we always find a solution, (although, in the process, I call him ‘hippie’ a lot).”

The tandem plan on expanding their current product line, debuting a new crop of leather goods to add to their ties, pocket squares, socks, and braces. “We started small and grew slowly but continuously,” offers Holdorf. “We want to be able to really control the process, to grow organically. For this Fall, we have a small line of leather accessories planned: a portemonnaie, a credit card holder, a portfolio, gloves; very small, very curated, unusual, but tasteful styles in a very good quality – products you cannot get everywhere.” And they’re committed to exploring new approaches and new products as they evolve, personally and commercially, tailoring their version of the ideal customer experience:

“We want to continue on this path of providing beautiful, tasteful, high-quality products that usually are very hard to find. If you shop at Shibumi, it should be carefree: you know that you get a very well made product that fits the aesthetic of classic, contemporary menswear. Classic, but not old-fashioned; simple, but not boring.”

photo 4That duality is refreshing, a delicate balance of heritage and vision, catering to a lifestyle of ‘understated elegance’ as their name suggests. And their ultimate goal: “One day I’d love to be dressed in Shibumi head-to-toe. But we don’t want to rush things, we don’t want to go in the wrong direction (at least not too far). We will see how the new line does and take it from there. To be honest I’m very confident it will go well; we did some beautiful designs like a portfolio in honey suede.” And with each meticulously measured step, these sharp young gentlemen are sure to make an impact on aficionados and connoisseurs alike. See more of their products here.

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