Classically American, Made in Japan

Jens Mortenson

Visvim begins to take off with men in the States. 

The most coveted American designer right now isn’t American. Hiroki Nakamura is the creative director of Visvim, a brand
he founded in 2000. With classic menswear staples (broadcloth shirts, twill trousers, sneakers) rendered with Tokyo cool and a tailored fit, Nakamura’s label has attained a cultlike following among shoppers at London’s Dover Street Market and Brooklyn’s Gentry. 

The 45-year-old Japanese designer comes by his love of Americana honestly. He grew up in Kofu, a few hours west of Tokyo, during an era when owning a pair of Levi’s was a status symbol for Japanese teenagers. As a young man, he studied in Alaska and worked for Burton, opening the snowboard company’s office in Japan. His clothing springs from a mythic mood board that features imagery from California in the ’60s and ’70s—racing hot rods, surfers having a bonfire in hemp hoodies.

As he plots his collections he takes the building blocks of a casual American wardrobe and starts to twist, employing a style of Japanese patchwork known as boro on a jean jacket ($2,575) or using Egyptian Giza cotton instead of rougher chambray on a work shirt ($715). Hand-sewn sneakers feature a leather fringe that creates the impression that someone at Nike went on a peyote bender. A standout piece for spring is an army field jacket that at first glance is straight out of your college thrift shop—only much more artisanal than the one you wore when your idea of a mixologist was the Slurpee machine at 7-Eleven. This play on nostalgia is pure Nakamura. He sees a continuum between the classic and the current, describing his mission as creating “future vintage.”

Fittingly, Nakamura is now married to an American and divides his time between a 250-year-old house in Tokyo and, in Los Angeles, a midcentury modern filled with a collection of vintage records and automobiles. He also divides his creative time between two studios. To get the tone of Visvim just right, he designs the collection in both California and Japan. 

Visvim jacket, $3,400; sweater, $800; shirt, $450; tote, $975; and boots, $1,000;