“I get off the plane in Japan and I’m some kind of superstar,” laughs Nick Wakeman, founder and creative director of London-based clothing line Studio Nicholson. “Everywhere else in the world, no one knows who I am. It is frustrating being the best-kept secret in east Asia.” Wakeman’s label generates 55 per cent of its turnover from sales in Japan and South Korea, selling womenswear and menswear collections to over 250 stores. This compared to a handful of London boutiques – such as Liberty, The Shop at Bluebird and Aimé – highlights something of an east-west imbalance. But the situation is about to change, as the label makes the move into standalone retail, starting with an “ephemeral store” or pop-up shop next to Ally Capellino on Calvert Avenue in Shoreditch, opening this week on Friday September 21.
Since launching in 2010, the label has become a go-to for the discerning gentlewoman (the menswear collection launched last year). Wakeman oversees a small team of seven – creatively directing the womenswear with designer and “best pattern cutter in town” Bella Doyle, and is heavily involved in the menswear collection.
The aesthetic is a combination of traditional English fabrics, pared-down styling and avant-garde Japanese silhouettes; think Margaret Howell meets Rei Kawakubo. Provenance, sustainability and beautiful fabrics are key to the label’s ethos. Superfine wools are imported from Italy and heavier melton wools woven at Lovat Mill in Hawick, Scotland and Abraham Moon in Yorkshire. Trousers are worn cropped, such as double-pleat pants (£350) with removable pockets; jackets (a double-faced wool Purl Jacket is £395) are boxy; and weatherproof cotton trench coats (£950) are belted but voluminous.
Wakeman says she inherited her commercial insight from a businessman father and her creative talents from an interior designer mother: “The marriage of the two really set me up. Business and manufacturing is in my blood.” Recalling a childhood spent as the best-dressed kid in town, she continues, “I would sit with my mum after we’d been to the fabric shop. I’d do the pinning and she’d do the sewing. She made all of my clothes from day dot – double-breasted melton pea coats or Liberty-print jumpsuits.”
The pop-up store will offer three winter 2018 collections: pre-fall, autumn/winter womenswear and autumn/winter menswear. “This gives us a chance to tell our story, to inform on fit and fabrics,” Wakeman says. “It’s an opportunity to engage with our customers on a very personal level.” Admitting this is the culmination of an extremely busy year, she is positive about the future of the business, “It feels like this is our time, like we have the potential to become a global brand – and I’d really like that.”