Kanye West and Eric Clapton may share little beyond their professions as musicians, but both are diehard fan boys of Visvim, the 14-year-old men's line started – and designed – by Hiroki Nakamura. But while the cult label has its roots in Japan, Nakamura's high-end game of cowboys and indians is nothing if not American.
Still, Nakamura's take on western wear isn't just a rehash of John Wayne's old duds. "I believe that my perceptions are more abstract," the Japan-based designer says. "What comes to my mind is more specific in the sense that rather than a total look it would be about individual products."
It all sounds terribly abstract, but the charm of the goods lies in the detail. The brand's iconic "FBT" sneakers, inspired by old Native American one-piece leather moccasins, have a strange leather fringe that give them a distinct "Air Tonto" sensibility. They feel like a prank, but not all of Nakamura's work is so singular. His jackets are traditionally cut, albeit from loud materials, and his boots are thick-soled but entirely practical.
"I have always had a desire to create product that could be considered vintage in the future," explains Nakamura, adding that "natural exposure," "visible deterioration," and aging are the hallmarks of real western wear and inspiration for his brand. He creates goods that look unapologetically patched up and roughed out. How does he do it? The same way the pioneers did, with patchwork quilty, natural dyes, and a whole lot of leather.
Still, Nakamura doesn't want men to look like they're playing dress up. He tells customers to keep it simple, wearing boots and denim without much ornamentation if they are going for a real cowboy look. Then, he suggests, wear that outfit again and again. "Anything that develops more character and warmth with time and use is the best and closest to my idea of Western style," he says.