I t was a surfing injury that led to the creation of Nick Fouquet’s thriving hat business. “During my recuperation, I learnt about garment and accessory design from Christophe Loiron, who runs Mister Freedom, a vintage clothing store and retro-inspired workwear line in LA,” says Fouquet. “I’m passionate about hats and making them just clicked with me; it’s the perfect way to express myself.”
The New York-born model-cum-milliner grew up in France and moved to LA in 2008. Three years ago he set up shop in a craftsman bungalow on the edge of bohemian-chic Venice. In his onsite workshop, kitted out with vintage flocking machines and flanges (blocks), Fouquet handmakes the super-cool fedora styles that attract the likes of Kate Moss, Georgia May Jagger, Anne Hathaway, Madonna and Bob Dylan. The accompanying boutique space exudes a “homey, comfortable” vibe, displaying on wooden tables and crate-like shelves some 40 to 50 hats in a profusion of different styles and colours.
“Many are unisex and seasonless,” says Fouquet, whose made-to-measure bestsellers include the Raven ($1,325) – a classic black design with a low crown that’s distressed and embellished with linen – and the Maritime ($1,175), a reversible fedora with a short brim. “These hats are all really wearable, but some are more eccentric, more theatrical.” Among the more statement-making, ready-to-wear chapeaux are the Burning Man ($1,975) – a tie-dye open-crown fedora with a Cayman crocodile band and striking electric blue feather – and the Little Cypress ($1,375), a teardrop fedora available in shades from granite to subtle gold.
“Our signature hats are made from 100 per cent beaver-fur felt,” explains Fouquet, who is often on hand to personally fit his toppers. “Our felt is American, sustainably harvested and of a very high quality.” The hats are then subjected to Fouquet’s trademark finishes – they are variously steamed, burned (with a blowtorch) and sanded (“to give them a silky finish”). Each features a roan sheepskin sweatband, as well as a decorative grosgrain or leather hatband, while the array of embellishments ranges from vintage silver charms from New Mexico and exotic feathers sourced in Macau to Parisian flea-market finds. Finally, each hat has a matchstick tucked into the band. “It’s a strike-anywhere match,” says Fouquet, “and it symbolises the spark of creativity.”
There are straw hats available too, such as the pink Coco Palm ($625) and the purple Aquapulco ($650), which has a bandana in lieu of a band. And Fouquet will also work with clients on custom creations (from $600 for straw, $1,100 for felt), which take 12 weeks to complete.
“Hats are the pinnacle of elegance,” says Fouquet, who has recently collaborated with 150-year-old luxury Italian hat brand Borsalino and has been stocked at Browns in London since 2015. “They are an undervalued accessory that can transform a look, make a statement. I believe there is a hat for everyone, but you’ve got to wear it with confidence.”