Hat maker Nick Fouquet puts his spin on a time-honored tradition
By Kamala Kirk
For centuries, hats have served as a form of fashion and function, symbolism and status. Recent years have seen a resurgence in hat wearing thanks to modern artisans like Nick Fouquet, a Venice-based hat maker who is known for his creative custom designs that have been worn by everyone from Madonna to Pharrell Williams.
A global nomad, Fouquet was born in New York City and moved to the Southwest of France when he was 2 years old. He lived in Florida for a period of time, attended boarding school in New England, and did stints in Patagonia and Colorado between his world travels. Fouquet visited Los Angeles on several occasions, but it wasn’t until he stayed with a friend in Venice Beach that he realized he’d found home.
“During previous trips to LA, I’d go to Hollywood, which I didn’t identify with,” Fouquet says. “But Venice was a community of artists, surfers and skaters, and had people like Dennis Hopper living there. It was like a Utopia that I’d always dreamed about. I grew up with the ocean next to me and I need that connection. Venice is everything I love—it’s gritty, it’s fancy and it’s got heart. It’s always been a super creative place filled with incredible energy. When I left, I knew I had to come back; this was my spot.”
In 2008, Fouquet returned to LA, where he was taken under the wing of Christophe Loiron, founder and designer of California-based brand Mister Freedom. Fouquet, who always had an affinity for style and design, learned the production process hands-on, working with industrial sewing machines, embossing leather patches on denim jeans, doing silk-screening and performing other tasks.
One day Fouquet was walking down the street when he noticed a man wearing a unique Western hat. When Fouquet asked him where he got it from, the man said that he made it, and that’s when a lightbulb went off for Fouquet.
“While I was working with Loiron, I had this entrepreneurial spirit and knew that I eventually wanted to do my own thing, I was just trying to figure out what it was,” Fouquet says. “I had no idea that there was this whole craft behind making hats. After doing some research, I realized that the market for headwear was underdeveloped and unsaturated. That’s when I saw potential in the modernization of hats.”
Since launching his business in 2011, Fouquet has come a long way from making hats out of a small basement workshop in Venice. Over a decade later, he has expanded his operation, which now includes a storefront and production studio on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. In December, he will open a second location in Aspen and plans to launch a third store in Mexico City in 2021.
“I used to live in Aspen and have done a lot of trunk shows there in the past, so it’s been on my radar as a second location for years,” Fouquet says. “It’s a culture that really understands headwear. Our store is right in the center of town on Hyman Avenue and Giorgio Armani opened up directly across the street from us. Aspen has become such a destination, especially during this pandemic. We’re also looking at Mexico City, it’s another place that understands what we do.”
Every hat that Fouquet makes features his own unique twist and captures his eclectic style. A hat can take anywhere from a day to a week to make, and he incorporates multiple techniques and tools including electric sanding machines and blowtorches to create an aged, worn-in look. He also adds unique accoutrements that range from feathers to dead stock linens and fabrics, along with his signature matchstick that he puts in every hat.
“Hats are like the various characters that come in to get them, they’re all different,” Fouquet points out. “I’ll always do something unique for my clients, they have to be bespoke on some level.”
In addition to custom designs, Fouquet makes ready-to-wear hats, which are sold at his store and major retailers including Neiman Marcus. He releases several collections each year, and has created hats for Paris runway shows and Italian design houses such as Borsalino.
“When I approach a design, I do a deep dive into a theme or an idea,” Fouquet shares. “Sometimes I’ll base a hat off a fictional character that I create and then I’ll think about what he would wear, what kind of car he would drive, the other characters that are in his world and so forth. I build this movie in my head, which becomes my vision and world for the collection. Other times there’s no rhyme or reason to the creative process, it just feels like some sort of divine inspiration.”
When he isn’t working on custom creations for clients or collaborating with other brands, Fouquet enjoys spending time outdoors amidst nature, surfing at the beach and traveling.
“Traveling is a way for my mind to run free,” he says. “My brain gets overly activated when I’m in a new place and looking at new people, it hits on all the senses. Because of COVID-19, I haven’t been able to travel like I used to, but I go on day trips and travel a little bit here and there. I need it for my soul, personally.”
At the moment, Fouquet looks forward to continuing to expand his brand and plans to move into other categories beyond hats.
“My dream has been to express my vision to the world and I’ve done it for so long with headwear, now I want to continue to write my story,” Fouquet says. “As a brand, we’ve been able to touch so many different demographics of people. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am now. I didn’t get into the hat making game to become rich, it was something that spawned out of a passion. I followed my heart and am super grateful to be where I’m at today.”
For more information, visit nickfouquet.com