Long before he even knew he wanted to start a brand, Visvim founder Hiroki Nakamura was slowly gathering what would become reference points for his life’s work. Nakamura was born in Kofu, Japan in the early-’70s and raised in Tokyo. At a young age, his parents encouraged him to study abroad, which led to Nakamura finding himself in Alaska. During his time in the northwestern part of the state, Nakamura lived among various indigenous groups where he immersed himself in their culture. Nakamura has said that his interest in Native American culture stems from watching western films as a child but his experiences in Alaska allowed him to dig deeper. It was during this time that Nakamura began to collect Native American moccasins and jewelry which would later inspire his work.
Nakamura’s obsession with America went beyond the culture of the indigenous people and also included all things Americana. In the early-’90s, when American workwear was gaining popularity in Tokyo, Nakamura began collecting vintage Levi’s denim and Red Wing Boots. These products informed Nakamura’s taste and inspired him to make items that aged well. Before starting Visvim, Nakamura worked as a designer for the Japanese division of Burton Snowboards for eight years. During this time, Nakamura learned how to design products with technical materials meant for performance—a skill that would help him in the future.
Nakamura left Burton and started Visvim in 2001. The name stems from two Latin words that Nakamura found browsing a dictionary, “vis” and “vim”. While the name has no meaning, Nakamura simply liked how the two words looked together and made it the name of the brand. Before expanding into apparel, Visvim was strictly a footwear manufacturer. The brand’s most popular shoe was also one of its earliest releases, the moccasin/sneaker hybrid known as the FBT. Inspired by the Native American moccasins Nakamura collected in his time in Alaska, the Visvim FBT was ahead of its time in combining the upper of a classic shoe with a sneaker sole, an idea that is being copied to this day. The FBT featured a moccasin upper with a removable fringe detail that provided extra ankle warmth, an EVA Phylon midsole for comfort and a TPU heel stabilizer that added an athletic flare. The Visvim FBT was Nakamura’s way of paying tribute to Native American culture while also adapting it to withstand the new challenges of modern life. The FBT slowly gained a cult following but became massively popular when Kanye West was seen wearing them routinely in 2013. Since then, the shoe has been highly sought after.
Visvim expanded into clothing in 2005. It was at this time that Nakamura would combine his expertise in technical design with his taste for Americana. Items like the Deckhand Jacket and Ballistic 20L Backpack are perfect examples of Visvim using premium fabrics to create items that look like the originals they reference.
Today, Visvim is cherished by collectors and catches new eyes on a regular basis. In recent years, the Christo Sandal and Virgil Boot have found cult followings like the FBT did years ago. With an impressive catalog of goods from head to toe, Visvim is the brand to invest in if you want Americana that lasts a lifetime.