When the topic of archive fashion comes up, many brands come to mind, ranging from the grungy Number (N)ine to avant garde Issey Miyake, to name a few. However, the brand Visvim doesn’t come to mind immediately for most, with a majority of the brand’s offerings not striking people as fitting neatly into what archive style is. This, in my opinion, overlooks the potential of Visvim’s offerings, along with the craftsmanship, luxury, and exclusivity of the brand. Due to a multitude of factors ranging from founder Hiroki Nakamura’s upbringing, to the attention to detail in every piece, Visvim will almost certainly be incorporated into what is considered as an archive fashion brand, and should already be. In his own words, Visvim’s founder stated, “I like to make things with that strength (of vintage items)" in 2013, and when combined with other factors of the brand, it makes complete sense that Visvim will become coveted in the future and incorporated into archive style as well.
To fully understand Visvim as a label, the history of the brand and the founder must be explored in a more in depth manner than a simple timeline could provide. Nakamura’s fascination with America’s culture and its indigenous people began at a very young age, with Western films igniting his interest in the country and culture of America. This fire within the designer would only be fueled at the age of 15 when, with the encouragement of his parents, Nakamura traveled to Alaska.
During his time living and studying in what many consider the most inhospitable American state, he had ample time to explore and take in what rural America had to offer, with activities like snowboarding and camping ranking chief among the activities Nakamura would enjoy. He also took the opportunity to stay with multiple tribes of Indigenous people, and came to understand the cultures that had fascinated him as a child.
This early experience proved to be life changing for him, with the seeds being planted for what would later become Visvim. Following his return to Japan, Nakamura landed a job at Burton which allowed him to return to the United States, this time on his company's dime. He began collecting vintage American clothing during his numerous trips to the United States during the 90’s, with well worn Levi’s, moccasins belonging to indigenous cultures, and work boots making up a majority of the pieces picked up during his early adventures.
Eventually Nakamura would leave Burton, opting to create his own footwear brand Visvim. His reason for starting the brand was rather simple, yet understandable: “Because I couldn’t find what I wanted elsewhere.” Visvim was launched in 2001, with the initial offerings mainly being the FBT sneaker. Both a tribute and re-contextualization of the traditional moccasin, the shoe featured a moccasin essentially put onto a sneaker sole. This synthesis of new and old in Visvim’s early footwear would prove to become quite popular, with Visvim going from merely being a footwear brand to a full fledged fashion brand, with clothing becoming available in 2005.
Early clothing of Visvim leaned into being performance minded yet vintage inspired. Drawing on American cultural icons such as Taxi Driver and old military wear, Nakamura would rework garments to be functional, able to age well, and full of nods to the vintage inspiration. As time progressed Visvim expanded its reach with the brand becoming more available in western markets, and the amount of products produced each season grew, with the quality and craftsmanship improving at the same time. From the launch of its women’s line in 2013 to its reach with celebrities such as John Mayer, Visvim has rapidly expanded from being a niche label to a luxury designer brand. With the label's offerings, profits, and notoriety only seeming to grow by the year, Visvim almost certainly will continue to reinterpret American classics for years (if not decades) to come.
With most designers and labels, there are signature items that portray the values of the designer and brand. In this respect, Visvim is no exception with most of its iconic products and events showing off parts of the brand's core identity. The best example of this is undoubtedly the Social Sculpture denim line. Along with the products that it produces, Visvim also holds regular events ranging from its Indigo Camping Trailer shows to Trunk shows in which vintage items from Nakamura’s own collection are available for sale. In these items and events the values of Visvim and its founder are put on display. Beyond this, the pieces and shows that embody the brand also provide important examples as to why Visvim should be archival.
Take for example the Social Sculpture denim line, in which Nakamura and his design team reinterpret the iconic Levi’s 501 jean. Through a variety of different fits, fabrics, and finishes the Social Sculpture line explores Americana classics. This combined with Visvim’s attention to detail and premium luxury fabrics, create jeans meant to be made the wearer’s own, and while also looking as if they've been worn for decades. The Raw and Unwashed versions of Social Sculpture denim embody Nakamura’s idea of the wearer making Visvim pieces their own, with the garments becoming vintage in due time. In Nakamura’s own word’s “The denim that you come in and pick up from one of our stores… that is just the starting point.” This concept of future vintage is relevant to Visvim now more than ever, with lots of products being designed while keeping in mind how they will look and feel after 20 or so years during the design processes.
Another way in which Visvim’s values are embodied comes in the form of their Indigo Camping Trailer (ICT) shows. Quite literally using a vintage renovated camping trailer, the ICT shows often feature one-of-a-kind pieces, garments made from vintage fabric, and other goodies not available to the general public. This air of exclusivity, when combined with the in-person nature of the ICT shows. leads to the items sold there being extremely sought after by the greater Visvim market, and the experience of the shows being a grail in and of themselves among Visvim fans. The main aspects across Visvim’s lines is that they fundamentally produce quality products that age well, some of which are exclusive, and almost all of which are exclusive due to their price. Combined with what Visvim events offer in terms of both experiences and goods, the brand has an allure like no other. These factors all come together to show why Visvim should be considered archive both now and in the future.
These examples of Visvim’s values are important in understanding the brand that Nakamura has built and why Visvim should be considered an archive brand. Although many items that Visvim puts out don't exactly fit preconceived notions of what archive is stylistically, it is quite easy to pluck out items that fit this stylistic notion. Some examples that come to mind include black processed “CRASH” Social Sculpture denim, Black Elk flannels, and of course one-of-a-kind ICT pieces. Beyond just items that fit this stylistic notion of archive, other pieces from Visvim are easy to see as archive in the future. Take for example Visvim’s Strabler Down jacket rendition of a perfecto leather biker jacket, which trades leather typical of motorcycle jackets for nylon/cotton blended fabric with down insulation. This timeless, easy to wear style, when meshed with quality construction and a barrier to entry, makes for a rather sought after jacket.
These qualities make the jacket not only enchanting to Visvim’s core consumer base, but also to those who would not typically pick up or consider adding a Visvim piece to their closet. This isn't the only Visvim piece with these characteristics however, with examples ranging from the Social Sculpture denim line, to handcrafted footwear and more. The common through line is that with almost all Visvim products it's easy to imagine them being sought after, worn, collected, and traded well into the future. Visvim should be considered (and is by a few) to be part of archival style already, with certain rare items becoming grails for Visvim lovers and others alike. In the future it's easy to see why Visvim would be archived, as it is built to last the test of time, both in physical terms and style terms.
Though it isn't stylistically similar to the punk stylings of Undercover, shredded 90’s Raf Simons, or avant-garde Carol Christian Poell, Visvim does have a place in the archive fashion community. With the high quality of Visvim products, their stylistic nature and the brands growing popularity, these products will be sought after for years and decades to come. As Nakamura put it in a 2010 interview, “Maybe my products will someday be in vintage stores, and someone like me 20 years ago will buy them, and want to hang on to them.”, and given the way his products are designed, this belief is rather justified. With all this in mind, don't be surprised when in 20-30 years, while browsing in an archive store, you find a pair of Visvim jeans or a beaten up down jacket, and walk out the door with a Visvim product from yesteryear in your shopping bag.
In addition to our Future Archive article on Visvim, the ARCHIVE.pdf Team have scanned an expansive collection of Visvim Dissertations that include product overviews, exclusive interviews and priceless information. Check them all out here.
Written by: Isaac L. Davis