In an uber cool street paved with awesome restaurants and lovely old homes converted into retail spaces on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, California, you will find hat maker extraordinaire Nick Fouquet of Nick Fouquet Hats.
Founded in 2011, Nick Fouquet Hats is located amongst a thriving community, which includes many individual and unique traders like Nick himself. The locale has village-like energy for gathering both locals and tourists.
It’s a historic destination, with a colorful history that now boasts must go to restaurants, wine-bars and plenty of nightlife. Similarly, Nick’s hats evoke the romance of old craftsmanship in an era where something completely handmade is becoming increasingly rare. He is a true artisan and makes his hats at the back of his store, which is a sight to behold. It’s littered with feathers, matches (his signature), bits of silver, vintage linen, heirloom pieces and a collection of old timber hat molds in various sizes. There are also sewing machines and various other old tools of the trade from a bygone era. Nick primarily works with felt and beaver as the materials for his hats.
I first met Nick a couple of years ago and he had quite a following then, from celebrities to locals and tourists who went to Venice specifically to find him.
G: Nick, I remember when I met you, I was eyeing off a hat you wouldn’t sell me because you were making it for another famous celebrity. How does it feel to now be making hats for the likes Madonna and Pharrell?
N: It’s nice to be making hats for artists in different mediums who appreciate my work and aesthetic. I’m happy to have Madonna and Pharrell wearing Nick Fouquet.
G: You’ve been referred to as the “California King”, “The Mad Hatter” and “Urban Cowboy”. Do you relate to any of these titles?
N: I appreciate the titles, but I have a bit more humility than thinking of myself as the “California king”. I think we’re all a little mad and as far as “urban cowboy” goes, there may be some truth in that!
G: You’re all about a bit of mystery, magic, legends and truths. How much of this is you and what made you this way?
N: I am a bit of all these things I guess. I had an unconventional upbringing where I was on my own a lot. It forced me to be quite determined I guess, but there is a bit of mystery and magic in us all.
G: I can see you love vintage and “swag”, what inspired these traits?
N: My father and my extensive travelling are my stylistic inspirations. My father also travelled a lot and he always brought back such beautiful clothing which always made me dream of a new world.
G: How did someone so young find a passion in old-world craftsmanship?
N: Life has a funny way of bringing you down the river. It wasn’t part of my career path, it’s as if it found me.
G: How else would you describe your style?
N: It’s French country club meets Huck Finn, meets a cowboy, meets a samurai, meets Keith Richards.
G: You often mention your “mentor”. What drew you to him and who is he?
N: He’s a Frenchman. An old garment ragpicker who honed his skills and started designing beautiful clothes. I knew he would teach me some things and ultimately I got very inspired by the atelier and his world.
G: Tell us about your mum
N: My mother is a fantastic woman, she always believed in me and has a heart of gold. I’m very grateful to have such a wonderful woman in my life.
G: Do you have siblings?
N: Yes, I have five sisters.
G: You had an interesting background and upbringing. Tell us about it.
N: I was born in New York and grew up in the southwest of France. I travelled a lot as a child and being on the go is my comfort zone and environment. I wouldn’t say home is anywhere particular. I guess home is where the heart is.
G: You’ve travelled a lot, even as far as Australia where you lived and studied. How did this come about and where else have you travelled?
N: I’ve traveled extensively, all over the globe from Nepal to Morocco, Brazil, Peru, the Caribbean, New Zealand, Ecuador, the list goes on. The world has been my best teacher.
G: What’s with the matches you are always swirling around your mouth? I know this is a bit of a signature and you use them on your hats. How did this start?
N: There’s no deep meaning behind the matchsticks, it’s my trademark of inspiration…
G: How do you match a hat to a person or a person to a hat?
N: There are a lot of factors to that. It depends on a person’s character and life story. It’s always very personal.
G: The term “artisans” is thrown around a lot nowadays. What does a true artisan mean to you?
N: Good question. I think it means quality and passion.
G: How would you describe your hats? A bit boho? A bit old-fashioned?
N: I don’t like to pigeonhole my brand, but bohemian – luxury bohemian.
G: Do you really distress your hats by torching them?
N: Yes I do at times.
G: What is your favourite hat. A fedora or more of a cowboy style?
N: I love a classic fedora shape.
G: Tell us about your charity work.
N: I work with some local organisations such as The Venice Beach Boys and Girls Club, and I work with a non-profit in Florida with my friend. It’s called The Paradise Fund.
G: Who are your heroes?
N: Dr. Martin Luther King, Keith Richards, Ernest Hemingway, Rimbaud, Coco Chanel, Ralph Lauren…
G: You really care about the environment and wildlife etc. Can you tell us more about this?
N: I studied environmental science and sustainable development. I’m outdoors constantly, the environment is my higher power.
G: What do you do in your down time?
N: Surfing, backgammon, writing, poetry and hanging on the beach.
G: So are you a mad hatter? Just how mad are you?
N: You got to be pretty mad to be in the business I’m in as a career choice, so yes I’m a little mad…