They may say that hatters are mad but Mr Nick Fouquet is just a charming Californian. As a well travelled man, he's experienced a world of different aesthetics and these are all apparent in his headwear. The hats he designs in his West Coast studio look like they've lived 100 lives and have reached iconic status in just a few short years. Over the men's fashion week season, I've noticed more than a handful of influential men confidently sporting some Fouquet à la tête, which peaked my interest to find out more about the man behind the matchsticks.
I caught up with him when he was in London launching his SS16 collection at Browns Boutique in Mayfair, where we chatted about his inspiraton and life in America's Venice. I photographed him in Kensington wearing his own clothes, a collection of vintage pieces he's found on his global travels over the years and some select pieces from designer friends.
See more at NickFouquet.com and discover his hats in London at Browns.
Thanks to photography assistant Alastair Nicol.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I was born in New York City but I grew up in a town in the south-west of France called Royan, near Bordeaux. Today, I live in Venice California.
How did you end up in California? It was an accident. I blew my knee out surfing while visiting a friend in the State so ended up having to stay longer than expected while I got physiotherapy. At the time I needed a new adventure and although took me a while to get adjusted, I decided to make it my home.
I’ve heard a theory that California is full of so many optimists because in order to survive the journey across America, our ancestors had to have a positive look on life to just make it. What does California mean to you? I definitely agree with that sentiment. There’s so much optimism and thinking about travelling west in search of freedom and a better life definitely makes sense. Everyone is comes to find gold, to chase their dreams. Everyone wants to be discovered, to be a star and find a new life. Also political and sexual revolutions have all centred there. I feel like it’s a place for forward-looking individuals.
How did you get into hat making? I’ve had a lot of fortunate accidents in life and that is another. I went to school for Environmental Science but always had an interest in the arts and as my father worked in fashion he would bring home these incredible clothes that really struck me as a child. I ended up working for a designer in LA when I was living out there and he became my mentor. I really looked up to him and even though he didn’t work with hats he opened my eyes to pre-dustbowl, workwear design. I learned everything from him about how to construct. It was like going to school and getting paid minimum wage. During that time I spotted a cowboy on the street in LA and asked him where he got his hat made. He told me he made it himself and that there are only 30 hat-makers in American that do it this specific way. It really inspired me. From there I began to experiment with how I could add my own point of view to classic headwear. For about 150 years hats have been untouched. The same colours and silhouettes. I thought “Fuck that! Let’s burn this shit”. It’s what I admire most in design, respecting the past and bringing something new.
When did you make the matchstick your trademark? I smoke a lot and can never find a lighter. I started carrying these strike-anywhere matches and began storing them in my hat. It’s something really useful so I adopted it. You don’t happen to have a smoke on you now do you?
No I don’t. I thought Californian’s were meant to be all about healthy living!? I know! It’s such a bad habit.
Is there a men’s store in LA you love to visit? Yes the concept store Maxfield is amazing. It’s one of the best stores in the world. It’s on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. The Elder Statesman is also incredible for cashmere.
Why do you think hats are so special? It seems like it’s often the forgotten accessory to me. It’s such an undervalued piece. For men they are the pinnacle of elegance. Stylistically it changes the demeanour completely and unfortunately when it comes to quality people are undereducated. There’s a world of difference between a mass produced item and one designed bespoke for the individual.
How long does a bespoke hat take to make? It takes us about 12 weeks.
How would you describe your style? I describe it as Keith Richards meets a Samurai meets a French country club member meets a cowboy meets gaucho in Patagonia. More or less I’m an imperfect contemporary bohemian.
Describe yourself in 5 words. Hyperactive, cerebral, introspective, free, diligent.
What’s your horoscope? I’m an Aquarius. From the little things people have told me, I have agreed with the traits. We’re meant to be artistic thinkers who are a little aloof.
What do you need most in life? I have to be out in nature as much as I can. Getting in water is a priority for me, so either swimming, sailing or surfing. I love to surf, it’s definitely a meditative process for me when I need time away from work. I’ve always lived next to the ocean so it’s important.
What advice would you give your 18 year old self? Don’t worry.
Leave us with some words of wisdom. My mother would always say ‘do unto others as you’d like done to you’ and it’s really true. I think that would make the world a nicer place.