|Interview. Hiroki Nakamura|
"One of life’s daily tools is a pair of shoes. We rely on them everyday, so they should perform comfortably, be made of the nicest and high-tech materials available today and still look great."
As with many fixations, the fascination with footwear is a notion that can hardly be explained. There are many aspects which drive us into buying shoes - design, quality, detailing, durability, comfort, packaging, the connection to a certain label or producer, the fact that there is only a limited quantity available, the urge to outdo a fellow/rival shoe-head, or simply because we 'need' a new pair.
As Hiroki Nakamura, Creative Director of Visvim, said in his statement above, shoes are our daily tools. Since most of us are no longer walking on soft grass, moss, or other natural grounds, footwear is probably the most important piece of equipment that we make use of in our life. This said it is only plausible that we aim for the best in design, quality, durability, comfort... need we go on? It might take a while to find the perfect pair, and on this quest a number of shoes might accumulate... - which brings us back to the part where it says 'can hardly be explained'. Enjoy our latest feature on Visvim, an exceptional footwear brand from Japan.
Before we start: how did you get to Beinghunted?
One of Visvim’s shoes, the FBT BISON, was featured in beinghunted.com and about a month or two later Joerg hunted us down thru some mutual people we know in London.
What are your favourite hunting grounds in Tokyo, or any other place?
Everywhere and anywhere… depending on where my head is at, at the moment.
Where are you from and have you lived outside of Japan?
I was born in Kofu, Japan, but raised in Tokyo and I have traveled to many places all over the world, living here and there from time to time. But, basically, I have spent most of my time in Tokyo.
What would you say is special about the working/living situation in Tokyo?
Tokyo is a very comfortable place for me. It’s what I know. I love how convenient it is. I can go buy books, watch movies, or do virtually anything 24 hours a day.
Could you please give us a short overview of your educational/professional path towards Visvim?
Prior to Visvim, I worked for Burton Snowboards for about 8 years. I have a lot of respect for that company and the products they make. I learned a lot of what I know today through them. I wanted to start a company that had similar work ethics, particularly in producing good quality products.
You have worked with a number of well known brands before. How did you hook up with these companies?
Through friends and friends of friends, who are mostly all designers, as well.
How do you work together with companies like UnRivaled? Do you leave them full creative freedom?
It’s about 50-50. I don’t think anyone has any more creative freedom than the other. We work together, exchanging ideas to see what works the best.
You have probably met a lot of interesting and important people. Are there any that you’re particularly fond of having met/dealt with?
I have definitely met many interesting and inspirational people whom I have enjoyed working with. My friends and colleagues are very important. One person in particular is my friend, Hiroshi Fujiwara. Hiroshi is a designer/artist that I have much respect for so his comments and thoughts are particularly important to me. He has been very supportive of Visvim from the beginning.
How did you take that step from working for others to designing for yourself? Was that your goal from the beginning or did it develop over the time?
I didn’t really plan for this (Visvim). I have always just wanted to focus on creating new, interesting and good products so I think it just slowly developed on its own.
How do you go about designing a shoe? Do you have a certain/fixed workflow after the initial idea is conceived?
Case by case. Sometimes ideas just come from something or someone I see, but sometimes it takes a little while longer for them to develop. I don’t think there is a certain process I go through with each shoe. Every single shoe design has taken its own path to reach its final destination.
Are you talking to people outside your studio about your products? Do you ask someone for their advice or opinion on your designs?
My friends and I are all in similar fields, whether it’s designing shoes or clothing, painting, or music, it’s all relative. Whatever it is, our work and ideas are always a part of our conversations. A lot of those conversations become very valuable and useful to my work.
Could you pick one your models and give us a brief description of how you developed that design?
Last summer, I designed the CHRISTO sandal, which was inspired by one of my favorite artists, Christo. Shoes are, in a way, very similar to Christo’s wrappings of bridges, monuments, natural formations, and other varieties of everyday objects. The wrappings offer the viewer a general idea of what is underneath without revealing what is really underneath. I sought to create a sandal with that idea behind it. Since sandals are usually worn during the hot summer days, a typical sandal utilizes very little material and reveals most of your foot. But the CHRISTO is the opposite of that. It covers most of your feet, revealing only small parts with a strap that criss-crosses the top of your foot, as if your feet were bound inside this material.
You are setting very high standards for your shoes, what are you looking for in an excellent piece of footwear?
One of life’s daily tools is a pair of shoes. We rely on them everyday, so they should perform comfortably, be made of the nicest and high-tech materials available today and still look great.
How do you make sure that your products are produced to the highest standards. How do you go about your quality control?
When designing and producing things, I think it is very important for the creator to understand the process and what is or isn’t possible within the process. Therefore I travel to the factory throughout most of the shoe making process and speak with the mold makers, the stitchers, the people assembling the shoes, to get myself familiar with what happens. This is how I feel I am able to control the quality of my shoes.
What were the influences for your current line? How did you research the styles, designs?
Old is new. New is old. That was the underlying theme of my Spring/Summer ’04 collection. I was heavily inspired by the different textile works of American Folk Art, traditional embroideries and brocades from India, Tyrolean trimmings, and Native American weavings. Through books and searching for authentic samples, I was able to understand how these patterns and materials were made which helped me develop the Spring/Summer line.
Have you set yourself a plan on how to expand Visvm, where to take the brand?
I guess just continue pushing myself to produce good quality products and take things as they go, see what happens.
Thanks to all the people who have been very supportive throughout the last 4-5 years and to all the people out there who have purchased Visvim’s. Arigatou!
Find Visvim at these fine retailers (outside of Japan):
The Hideout (London), Slam Jam (Ferrara), Undefeated (Los Angeles), Head Porter (NYC), Thomas-I-Punkt (Hamburg), Colette (Paris), Apartment (Berlin), Alta Moda (Modena), Chegini (Vienna), Les Deux Zebres (Toulouse).
Beinghunted says thanks for the interview and all the best!
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