Inside his Venice beach atelier, the hatmaker fashions one-of-a-kind heirlooms crafted with soul
“I came into a magical accident,” says Nick Fouquet, reminiscing about his vocational calling as he gazes up from beneath a distressed contemporary Western hat at his Venice studio. A career in fashion wasn’t always in the cards for the rugged New York City-born hatmaker, who grew up in the South of France and Florida and attended school for environmental science and sustainable development before making his way to California nearly a decade ago. The son of model Bernard Fouquet—the longtime patriarch figure in many a Tommy Hilfiger ad campaign—Nick, now 33, began modeling at age 22 (recently, alongside Kate Moss for Etro) and apprenticed under Christophe Loiron of menswear line Mister Freedom. But it wasn’t until 2011, when he encountered a cowboy on Abbot Kinney and inquired about his topper—to which the man replied that he made it himself—that the wheels were set in motion for Fouquet to start his namesake line.
Today, he and an eight-person team work out of a spacious Venice atelier and storefront on an unassuming stretch of Lincoln Boulevard, having relocated from Abbot Kinney last year. A short drive from Fouquet’s home in Santa Monica, the Craftsman-style bungalow reflects his bohemian sensibilities, with curios from his global travels, hats strewn on walls, and leather and suede shoes from his new collaboration with fellow Los Angeles-based designer George Esquivel.
Fouquet’s approach is a breath of fresh air compared to today’s fast fashion. Paying homage to craft and tradition, the milliner simultaneously takes cues from the Old West (wide brims) and the Old World (high crowns), and then adds his own “special sauce”: distressing the felt, using fire and paint, attaching his signature grosgrain matchstick, and lately, adding accoutrements such as precious stones and rare beads—“It’s just the trip I’m on right now,” he says. It’s these eclectic and rough-and-tumble touches melded with luxe materials like 100 percent beaver-fur felt that have led to one-of-a-kind commissions for Pharrell, Justin Bieber, Bob Dylan, Gigi Hadid and the queen of chapeaus herself, Diane Keaton. He’s also been tapped to create two exclusive capsule collections for Italian hatmaker Borsalino to be released in 2017.
Likewise, his seasonal collections, presented in Paris three times a year for retailers including Barneys New York and Colette, have proven to be hot tickets. This fall’s trip will see another accessory added to the mix: bags. Says Fouquet, “The materials used [for the bags] are really a true transition from the hats, including sun-bleached nudie leather with felt pockets, stitches and my quirky elements.” As more accessories start to unfold, he assures headpieces will remain his first love, but true to Fouquet’s free-spirited ethos, he tries not to get too attached: “I have a gem,” he reveals. “And she’ll break my heart when she goes.” 853 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, 310-310-2315; nickfouquet.com.
Written by LINDSAY KINDELON.
Photography by AMI SIOUX.