The minimalism of Hiroki Nakamura

I’m an enormous fan of Eric Clapton and of John Mayer. I like blues guitarists in general, but I especially love these two for their acoustic work. There’s just nothing on earth better than Clapton Unplugged. Or John Mayer’s first set on Where The Light Is: Live In L.A. And his more western influenced records—Paradise Valley and Born and Raised.

That’s how I found out about the designer Hiroki Nakamura and his brand visvim. I was struck by the iconic look Mayer chose for the cover of Paradise Valley: the vintage workshirt, kimono, and quilt, out in an open field with his dog. Then I found that it was Nakamura who styled Mayer for that cover and has been styling Clapton on recent projects.

Nakamura’s signature style is a nod to vintage America: The workwear of American industrialism combined with cowboy and Native American cultural touches, while still honoring his Japanese heritage. Tokyo Americana. The man lives a “carefully curated vintage life,” playing his pre-war Martin guitars and driving around an old Wagoneer. The epitome of cool.

I think that those of us who wish to live intentionally can learn a lot about minimalism from Hiroki Nakamura, though I don’t think he would describe himself as a minimalist. Maybe a purist, maybe an enthusiast, maybe a preserver.

Nakamura revives old methods and redeems old materials, making beautiful and timeless pieces from what was once cast out. He uses versatile pieces. He creates clothing that is functional. Let’s take a look at some of his work and explore the minimalist principles behind visvim.


1. Nakamura’s fits follow a formula: Versatile jacket, well-worn shirt, loose and distressed denim, go-anywhere boots.

Many minimalists are designing their own 'life uniform'—wearing the same outfit everyday in effort to reduce the time it takes getting ready, to inspire confidence as they're choosing an outfit that they love every single day, and to the eliminate option fatigue we all feel when shopping.

Other minimalists are creating a 'capsule wardrobe'—versatile individual pieces that work to form many different outfits in different pairings. Hiroki Nakamura echoes that sentiment, that desire to reduce, by following an easily identifiable formula you'll see copy/pasted across all of his work.


2. He reuses pieces, transforming them to create unique outfits from only a few items.

Viewing Nakamura's work, you'll notice the same jacket used in a few different ways: Sleeves rolled up, sleeves rolled down, buttoned, under or over another layer like a vest or a heavier coat. You'll notice the same vest used under a workshirt and over. He takes a few simple items and demonstrates their versatility, much like a capsule wardrobe.


3. He’s not afraid to mix and match patterns. He’s not afraid of denim-on-denim.

If you choose to declutter your closet you may find it frustrating that sometimes it seems the pieces you most want to keep work together the least. Nakamura is unphased by that phenomenon, encouraging us to mix patterns, mix materials, and break rules.

I can never keep it straight, is denim-on-denim cool this year or lame? Who cares.


4. Nakamura knows the value of simplicity and the impact of simple pieces like a linen dress.

My heart goes out to women who feel an obligation to dress and look a certain way. I can throw on a shirt and pair of jeans, brush my teeth and be ready to go in 10 minutes. But I don't have hair, nails, or the tremendous sociocultural pressure to shade my eyelids, blush my cheeks, and shave my legs.

I think the linen dress and leggings might be the answer to all that. It looks comfortable but beautiful, clean and simple but elegant. Throw on a hat and your hair troubles disappear. Wear that everyday. You look great!


5. He encourages authenticity and eccentricity. True to form, true to self. Why follow the crowd?

Wear a cowboy hat. Wear a kimono. Carry a big umbrella even when it isn't raining. Be yourself. Intentional living partly means living according to your conscience and not allowing societal pressure to influence your decision-making.

Society says you need hardwood floors, white walls and crown-molding, marble countertops, three-bedroom-two-bath, shiplap, that white picket fence, that crossover with a carseat and DVD player blasting Frozen to your 2.8 kids in the back, $10,000 in credit card debt, Essential Oils, and an addiction to your smartphone.

But society is miserable. Heed the words of the great Cat Stevens: "If you want to sing out, sing out. And if you want to be free, be free. 'Cause there's a million things to be, you know that there are." You'll feel happy when you're living authentically.


6. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Nakamura patches denim, restores leather, and quilts scraps, redeeming materials we might otherwise just throw away.

All photos from visvim's website.