VISVIM’s Hiroki Nakamura Talks Vintage

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VISVIM’s Hiroki Nakamura brings passionate dedication to NYFW, showcasing new pieces from his aesthetically relaxed men’s collection and introducing his women’s line WMV to the US for the first time. Walking into his presentation the other morning felt like going back to the future, as his intention to create a more modern vintage style comes through in each and every carefully tailored piece.  The room is dressed with old quilts, vintage motorcycles that he restored himself and a diverse array of to die for clothing. After 14 years in the business, Nakamura still longs for a personal connection with each piece he creates, going to unimaginable distances to craft a product that represents the concept of “Patina” and can age beautifully and naturally. The women’s collection designed alongside his wife Kelsi is no different and will be available at the Dover Street Market in New York in February.

Traveling is obviously important to you, as your collection is manufactured all over the world and your designs transcend many cultural barriers. What are some inspiring places that you like to go to?

I’ve been traveling since I was really young, like 10 or 12, and then on my own since I was 17. I think traveling is very important for us all. In old days we didn’t have such easy access to places, which made it harder to create. Nowadays, we have the advantage to be able to travel from one place to another, making it easy to mix inspirations or even manufacturers, materials. We can mix around by traveling and by visiting places. It’s difficult for me to choose one place because I always find inspiration anywhere I go.

This collection has a definite Old American vibe. Why America?

I always liked American culture, the men’s culture, the building culture. The theme for this collection is Patina. I wanted to design something that will age nicely, beautifully, naturally. People use the word to refer to antique cars, antique motorcycles, and furniture. It means that it ages in a balanced way. That motorcycle over there I restored (points to vintage 1920’s bicycle on display). When we found that motorcycle from 1928 it was very sad. It hadn’t been loved for a long time, or taken care of. So what we did, we cleaned everything. Unscrewed and cleaned everything by hand and gave so much love to the motorcycle. I didn’t paint anything, I just gave it so much love and I think it looks really beautiful. It’s nicely aged and that’s what patina means. Appreciating the natural beauty of things. I would like to design a product that can age nicely. I want to make something that can be loved.

Are you talking about the love for this culture or the love for collecting and restoring things?

I like all kinds of beautiful old stuff that being cultural or material. By collecting antiques and vintage stuff I get a lot of inspiration. Also by traveling. It’s my drive; I like to make something vintage for the future.

Can you talk a little about your vintage ideology? You seem to have a strong relationship with old things.

You can find vintage everywhere. Just a piece of textile has a lot of beauty to be discovered, or Patina. That’s something we want to communicate to our clients. Anything that you put love and effort into has a lot of beauty in it. And to design things to age nicely we have to use natural ingredients, natural dyes, natural tanning process for leather. We have to build from the inside, it’s very important for us and I learned it from vintage. I’m learning something from old people, what they did to old things, how they treated it, approaching it in a way that I can understand why we are drawn to it. Every season we approach it from a different angle to find out what makes us “wow”.

The most exciting technique we developed last season is the natural dye. We’re using a lot of natural dyes, like indigo, mud, cochineal blood. We do it by hand over the textile, we rub it to create evenness and I that’s something that excites me right now. It will age nicely.

How do you bridge the gap between old world applications and traditions and more modern manufacturing techniques? As much as we wish to keep it raw and organic, sometimes we have to mix, do you agree?

It’s all about timing. Everything we see here in this showroom is probably grandma made. Some old lady probably did that quilt by hand in the 1900’s. All made by hand, and it takes forever to do that, it’s not commercial and time makes things different now. That’s why traveling is the advantage we have, they couldn’t do it in the 1900’s. We travel all the time and we can intentionally mix whatever is left in this culture in terms of techniques and make something very unique that can compete with a vintage piece. My goal is to put my stuff next to strong pieces from 1900’s which are more powerful because they’re made by hand, and compare and be on the save level. I mix modern techniques to achieve the old look; it’s our privilege of today. I take advantage of modern techniques as well, like being able to fly everywhere.  I need to put my character into the product, it’s something I really spend energy to translate it to the modern product.

How did you become interested in fashion and design?

I just knew what was cool and what was not cool. When I was a teenager I could see a pair a boots and know if it was cool, or a denim and I could tell if it was cool vintage or not.  I started to question. What’s the difference if it looks the same, why is one better, why does it speak to me? I started to become curious about what the composition was, and the reason behind it. When I started my own brand I wanted it to speak to me and I wanted it to have meaning.  I’m s till trying to achieve that.

Do you have any restrictions in terms or what to create next?

We are so lucky we don’t have that kind of restriction. I want to do cars and motorcycles sometimes but I just don’t have that type of business. But if it’s something we like to design, then we do.  It’s important to set myself to be free, so things can come from the heart.

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