LONDON — It looks like the world is catching up with Nick Wakeman’s trend-free approach to dressing — and it’s showing in the brand’s bottom line.
The London-based label, best known for its modernist wardrobe staples, had its best year to date in 2020 with its wholesale business growing 40 percent; e-commence growing 25 percent, and its Japanese and South Korean businesses seeing a 40 percent surge each, during the pandemic.
“There used to be a reticence, especially from wholesale accounts. Certain markets, the U.S. in particular, weren’t really on board, they wanted everything really shout-y and categorized. But now we don’t have those categories, people work from home and have different lifestyles, and that has influenced the amount of growth that we’ve had,” Wakeman said.
So, with a renewed relevance and fresh round of investment from Rianta Capital and sales agency Polly King, the brand is ready to push its business further with a distribution deal in Japan — where it’s been operating for a decade and has more than 200 doors — as well as a new flagship opening in London’s Soho area, which has been buzzing ever since lockdown restrictions started lifting on April 21. A Tokyo flagship is in the works for next year.
“This is like the benchmark, you really need this as a business,” said Wakeman of the new Soho space. “And it actually turned out to be the perfect moment to open, because everybody wants to have a sensory experience again, they want to touch the outfit, smell stuff and try on clothing again.”
Wakeman decided to take care of the store design herself, creating a cozy yet no-fuss, minimalist space reflective of her fashion ethos.
The store features modular wooden boxes in different heights and sizes that double as clothing displays and are designed to be interchangeable; sleek white rubber floors in the same shade as the label’s bestselling sneakers, and a cozy, textured sofa.
“In my apartment, there’s this floating wooden box and behind it, it hides my bathroom. It’s quite cleverly designed and I just thought that it would also make the most amazing wardrobe,” said Wakeman, who designed her modular wooden wardrobes with Uncommon Projects, a company that specializes in closet fits and kitchens.
“I didn’t really want someone who does shop fits, I wanted each individual item to be chosen by me. I am a designer and quite good at interiors at home, so why would I ask someone to do interiors and spend a load of money?” she added of her decision to go at it alone.
Her focus was to reflect the mix of textures and materials that make Studio Nicholson’s wardrobe classics stand out, while the modular structures mirrored the brand’s philosophy of a modular wardrobe based on seasonless pieces.
“The idea is that you buy things intermittently and you can mix them together with other pieces that you own from Studio Nicholson, or from other brands — they’re not deafening or loud that you couldn’t mix it with other stuff,” added the designer, pointing to trench coats featuring the ideal oversize silhouette, knits and a pair of carryover wide-leg trousers, 30,000 of which tend to sell a year.
The brand’s growth strategy isn’t tramping its flair for timeless pieces, which are also sustainably made: Over the last year, it shifted its denim production to a sustainable denim manufacturer in Turkey; started using more and more recycled nylon for its trench coats, and is working toward producing locally in each of its key markets.
Its packaging has also been revamped with a type of plastic that can disintegrate in water or biodegrade within two years. “Nothing is really sustainable with fabric, even if it’s made out of orange peel, it goes on a plane for 24 hours to get to the factory and then it goes off somewhere else. So, my main focus has been packaging because every product has to be wrapped in huge amounts of plastic,” Wakeman said.
Next up is a series of collaborations with British ready-to-wear label Sunspel and shoe label Hereu as well as expanded accessories ranges, including handbags and a broader lineup of leather footwear.