You know that revolution/reclamation thing that’s happened in the food industry over the past decade? The one that’s revived farm-to-table restaurants and seasonal menus as a remembering of how things were done when they were achieved by hand, and an honoring of natural cycles and ingredients?
Japanese designer Hiroki Nakamura is in tune with this movement, but his medium is fashion. The founder, designer and creative force behind Japanese label visvim is a detail-oriented genius who revives ancient techniques and traditions to create rare textiles, which he then uses to make garments and shoes. Nakamura's fascination with fabric is lifelong; his Vogue designer profile says the 46-year-old artisan has collected rare pieces of denim since he was 14.
An example of revival in visvim designs is Nakamura's use of what is rumored to be the oldest type of paper in Japan, mino washi. Making it is a beautiful aqua-process. Underwater, tiny, shimmery fibers are removed from pale gray leaves, then they're pounded flat with a special mallet that leaves floral patterns in the doughy substance. Finally, the paste is spread into a thin layer on a bamboo mold and bathed in a milky wash. It becomes opaque and pearl-white. This lengthy endeavor produces just one sheet of the material, which is a fraction of what's needed for a skirt or blouse.
WMV visvim, a branch of the textile-driven label Nakamura co-created with his wife Kelsi, opened its flagship store on Shelby Street with a soiree on July 15. Matched with the weekend of the International Folk Art Market, the opening drew a gathering of stylish individuals, including trend forecaster Li Edelkoort, who is essentially a living oracle and dean of hybrid design at Parsons School of Design.
The Nakamuras visit Santa Fe yearly (but couldn't be reached for an interview due to hectic travel schedules and the fact that they spend much of their time in Tokyo, Japan) and are close with Jed Foutz, owner of Shiprock Santa Fe. They have personal affinity for the city, and choosing to open a flagship store here—instead of New York or Paris—shows how much this brand is about doing things their way, and authentically. The adobe boutique features both mens and womens pieces, as well as some exclusive items and footwear.
Style-wise, visvim is a blend of gender and culture that sits somewhere between sophisticated Southwestern native Jedi and Japanese monk. The visvim world is the futuristic desert art mecca many of us are hoping to be beamed up into, post haste. (Or that we want to imagine for Santa Fe, 2050.)
The pieces—from empire-waist tunics to long jackets—are oversized, giving them you-want-to-wear-me-everyday-appeal. Their color palettes will make you reimagine how contrasting colors exist naturally, like the mustard trim on a midnight blue kimono, which looks as earthly as bright stars speckling the late night sky.
Become acquainted with the painstakingly difficult processes behind creating some of these textiles and garments on the company's site visvim.tv (yes, that is the URL), which features "product introspections." These essays, accompanied by photographs and videos, explain each textile visvim uses, how it's made and its tradition. In a passage on his site, Nakamura writes, "Taking old, forgotten fabrics and re-examining them with a modern conceptualization and techniques can open up new possibilities."
On a recent visit to the shop, I eyed tops and moccasin-like sneakers, but the white mini dress in the back room solidified my opinion: This brand's handmade works of art are beacons of patient craft in a sea of mass-produced street wear. The dress ($2,200) was made with a heavy white fabric, its natural lines forming an agate-like pattern in delicate silk texture. It was the kind of dress you want to get married in, go on vacation in, attend your final party in. You could say dreamy—so much so—and I am clearly still thinking about it.
This intelligent collection of stunning pieces looks particularly good bathed in the Santa Fe light, if I do say so myself. Drop by, and don't gasp at the price; think of the purpose and creativity. The world needs beautiful things made by smart people.
10 am-5 pm Monday-Friday;
noon-5 pm Saturday.
222 Shelby St.,