Nick Fouquet has been dabbling with categories outside of headwear for several years, first expanding into accessories and a couple of one-off apparel pieces, and then partnering with Italian designer Federico Curradi on men’s and women’s wear last year. But now the Los Angeles-based milliner to the stars, who split his time growing up between the South of France and Florida, has jumped headlong into the category, launching his first stand-alone ready-to-wear collection.
“Ready-to-wear is a natural extension for me and I am thrilled to see all of those ideas brought to life, crystalizing my vision for the brand as we go beyond headwear and accessories,” he said. “The collection represents the two cultures I was fortunate to grow up with, balancing the American spirit with a European sensibility. I wanted to showcase the memories I have collected over the years, marrying the ruggedness of the Wild West with the romance of southwestern France. Embodying the nostalgia and spirit of both. My intention was to re-invigorate the traditional silhouette in a classic way to reveal a fluidity, set with the backbone of timeless Italian tailoring. The philosophy and foundation for the collection is effortless, the pieces can be paired together to create something personal while harmonizing both aesthetics.”
Fouquet, whose handcrafted creations with details like bullet holes, burns, beads and dried blooms have been worn by Lady Gaga, Keith Richards, Tom Brady and Pharrell Williams, is the son of model Bernard Fouquet, and he, too, began his career as a model, appearing in ads for Ralph Lauren, Levi’s and others.
He got his start in 2008, apprenticing for fellow Frenchman Christophe Loiron, the famed L.A. vintage Americana curator and designer of retro-inspired workwear line Mister Freedom. He launched his own brand in 2013 in an underground parking garage in Venice, after purchasing traditional hat-making machinery from retiring milliners in the Midwest, and quickly gained attention for his unusual techniques, including setting fire to the crowns of his hats.
Fouquet said although his headwear has been successful, he felt like it was the right time to spread his wings. “I’ve been doing headwear almost a decade with incredible success. It seemed like a natural progression to fill out the rest of the look. I never wanted to be a one-trick pony. I have a voice and this is my medium. So I just went for it.”
For his inaugural men’s wear collection, Fouquet drew inspiration from photographer Richard Avedon and artist John Baldessari, with secret messages and poetry woven and hidden inside the labels of the garments. The collection features soft Italian flannels, Shetland wool, corduroys, linens and printed Texas fabrics, with handcrafted, masculine hardware.
The collection evokes a modern Western lifestyle with loose-fitting suits that can be the new work uniform. Jackets are cropped while shirts are oversized. Cardigans and other sweaters feature embroidery and patchwork details and jacquards are inspired by antique tapestries and tartans.
Fouquet’s Western wear roots are evident in the equestrian theme that runs through the collection and the print seen on jeans, jackets and bucket hats. Plaids are used on jackets, shirts and headwear and the brand’s signature matchstick motif appears on the hats and in the embroidery details, alongside wildflowers, another favorite reference of Fouquet.
In addition to the more tailored pieces, the collection also features T-shirts and sweats that are created using garment-dying techniques intended to evoke the colors of Southern California. Accessories range from belts and chains to brooches, and hats are available in a variety of weights — from dress and Western felt to straw weaves and buckets.
He said with the designs, he sought to show his “appreciation for American culture. Western wear is the nucleus of American men’s wear with denim and flannels, but it hasn’t been modernized.” So with Western wear as the “launching point,” Fouquet strove to update the silhouettes and added embellishments and hardware to the looks. Among his favorites are the smoky gray corduroy jackets and pants, the knitwear and the flannel pieces.
Prices will sit at the luxury end of the market with belts retailing for $400, knits selling for $600 to $1,200 and outerwear coming in above that. The bulk of the apparel was manufactured in Italy, while the headwear was made in L.A.
The collection was shot in Milan by Boo George and styled by Robert Rabensteiner.
It will be sold at the company’s Venice, Calif., flagship as well as its store in Aspen, Colo., along with select wholesale accounts and online at the designer’s e-commerce site. Fouquet expects many of the high-end retailers who carry his hats to add the apparel.
Looking ahead, Fouquet said he expects to continue to build on this apparel offering as a way to fulfill his long-term view for the brand. “When I started doing hats, my dream was always to grow my universe,” he said. “I’ve always had a bigger vision and it’s crystalizing in this way.”