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It’s difficult to tell that Hiroki Nakamura is one of the hardest working people in the clothing industry. It’s a Friday afternoon during New York Fashion Week, and he’s sunken in a leather couch, wearing a pair of black sunglasses, and drinking a latte as a host of media looks through and fawns over the Visvim founder’s Fall/Winter 2018 collection. His FBT moccasin sneakers, parka jackets, and garments made from canvas and denim, with their lofty price tags, might be some of the most labored and sought over items on the market, and it’s all part of Nakamura’s process.
“We’re continually developing fabrics and techniques,” Nakamura says about his craft. “We have so many new techniques that we just discovered and started using in this collection. But mainly we use a combination of natural dyes and synthetic fabrics like nylon. We want to design something that lasts long and has a lot of humanity, from shoes to bags and everything.”
Most people know Visvim for its moccasins, which have been worn by Kanye West, ASAP Rocky, and everyone in streetwear who had good taste and a bit of money to blow. The brand has also become a favorite of John Mayer, who’s recognized as the biggest champion of Visvim and Nakamura’s work.
We caught up with Nakamura to talk to him about everything, including hip-hop’s love for the brand.
A lot of people in the States know you for the footwear.
Did you see the big shoes [that were in the front of the room]?
Do you think the sneakers and moccasins get more attention than the clothes?
I started the company almost 20 years ago with the shoes. For the first couple years, I was only making shoes and some T-shirts. Shoes are still one of my biggest passions that I design. I’m still spending so much time and effort to develop denim and outerwear. Clothes, women’s clothes. If you are a fan or supporter of our brand through the shoes, that’s great. To me, the shoes are utility product. You have to wear it and use it everyday. If you find comfortable shoes, you’ll notice it right away. Shoes are interesting, in terms of design because it has to be comfortable.
How does it feel to see hip-hop adopt your clothes and footwear?
I think that’s great. Looking at my team, I rediscover the product that I’ve designed. I’m like, “Wow, he looks great. I didn’t come up with that look.” It looks so fresh to me. If a client wants to dress and use our product as their wardrobe, to me it’s inspiring.
Does it surprise you that you create a high-quality brand but it’s often associated with streetwear?
That’s something that someone else called me. Whether it’s a street brand or a luxury street brand. That’s OK. I don’t care what kind of category I’m in. I just focus on what I like to do. I just want to make something I love. I want to make something that I want to wear. I want to make something I believe in.
How do you feel when your moccasins have become so synonymous with the brand, but then you see other brands copy what you’re doing?
I get inspiration from moccasins. I get from inspiration from whatever I see. Only time will tell us what’s timeless design. I need to work hard to be the next timeless design. If someone’s inspired by what I make and that becomes the next trend, then I need to work harder to be the next after that. That’s how it works. I’m into old things, textiles from Japan, France, and America. Looking at those artifacts, I see how they influence each other. They’re pushing the envelope to the next thing.
John Mayer is one of your biggest collectors. Are you friends?
John Mayer is one of our biggest supporters. He’s been a good friend of mine, he’s great. He probably has a bigger Visvim collection that me.
What do you talk about?
He’s really into details. He knows a lot about our product. We talk about product. He’s genuinely interested in our product. He’s enjoying our product, I think. I’m enjoying looking at someone who’s enjoying our product.
There was a story about a year or so about a kind of nerdy guy who was a huge fan of your brand. Did you see that?
He had a head to toe Visvim collection.
Really? In GQ magazine? And he’s just a collector?
No one expected a guy like that to have a massive Visvim collection.
How did you react to the fanatics of your brand?
One thing I noticed is the supporters share the same values as me. I value my product, what I design. And they value what I design. So we share the same qualities. In Tokyo, Europe, the U.S., I see the supporters and they have the same values as me, somehow.
There was a story about how Kanye West gets waitlisted for your shoes. Do you have a friendship?
Yeah, I’ve seen him a few times. We travel and see each other at the airport, at the hotel. He’s a great guy. He’s an influential, successful guy, and we appreciate that he supports our brand.
What’s next for the FBT?
I’m pushing every season. Sometimes I discover something, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I take small steps. Sometimes I discover and I’m like, “Whoa, this is great.” I have to keep doing that. I keep have to keep pushing myself, working with new fabrics, new techniques. Eventually I find that this works great with this. I think I have to keep pushing myself every season.