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Globetrotting has always been in Nick Fouquet's blood, so LA lid lovers are pretty lucky that the celeb-faved hat maker decided to stay put in the City of Angels. Having topped the têtes of stars like Jared Leto, Madonna and Pharrell, it comes as a surprise to hear that a chance encounter with a cowboy on Abbot Kinney inspired him to become a hat maker. "I asked him where he got it and he told me he made it, and that's when the lights kind of went on," the laid-back chapeau creator told us.
The New York-born, Paris-bred designer was raised in France until the age of eight, when his family decided to return to the U.S. "I was always really transient with my family," Fouquet said. "At a really young age, I had been used to that sort of lifestyle of movement. Even to this day, if I'm not leaving or going somewhere in the next month, I just get depressed."
After earning his degree in environmental science and sustainable development, Fouquet traveled the world for a year, exploring nearly every corner of the globe (Thailand, Brazil and New Zealand were just a few stops) before coming back to the States and living briefly in New York and Colorado. It was during his days dabbling in design when he discovered the art of millinery. He finally settled in Venice, where he now creates hats from his studio tucked away behind new jewelry and home decor boutique The Piece Collective.
After exploring his awe-inspiring Abbot Kinney space, we walked over to TOMS' flagship to chat over healthy sips from Juice Served Here.
What are you drinking today?
"I'm drinking Sweet Greens No. 2 with cucumber, apple, romaine, kale, spinach, parsley, cilantro, mint and lime. A $10 juice!"
What was your path before you began making hats?
"I went to school for environmental science and sustainable development. [At 18], I picked a major that was closet to my heart, dealing with the environment and conservation issues and sustainability. It was really interesting, I just knew it wasn't a career path I wanted to choose. I started working in design in New York [for a couple designers]; one in particular out here, [Christophe Loiron of Mister Freedom], was my mentor and I learned a lot from him."
So what inspired you to delve into hat making in particular?
"I wanted to do my own thing, I just saw hat making a way to express creativity. It wasn't an over saturated market so I felt like it would be really interesting to delve into that, and I've always had an affinity for hats. I think I had the 'a-ha' moment when I was working for [Christophe] and pretty much had the opportunity to do something really unique and different so it's really exciting for me to delve into this lost art."
Was it something you fell in love with over time or did it click with you right away?
"It was pretty immediate, I was walking down Abbot Kinney one day and ran into this cowboy who was wearing this amazing hat. [...] After talking to him and realizing that a lot of this equipment is really outdated and really hard to find and there's a handful of hat makers in the U.S. It's a small contingency and I've always been interested in just...uniqueness. This was something that was very unique and not mass market and very niche. So I just realized the sky's the limit in terms of me being able to sink my teeth into something like this.
I never planned to be a hat maker, it just sort of happened, it's as if it chose me. It turned into a passion that turned into an obsession. I love what I do and I also have an amazing team that helps me see my vision out, it's not like a one-man show, really."
Pharrell Williams is also a client of yours. What are your thoughts on that Vivienne Westwood hat he wore to the Grammys?
"I dunno know, I'm still sort of confused about it [...] I mean it's not like I like it or I don't like it. Let's just say if I saw 20 people wearing that hat I'd be like, 'That looks [ridiculous].' But for him he pulls it off. I don't really know what the consensus is on that!"
Alright, it's the lightning round! What's your personal tagline?
"Keep on keeping on."
Early bird or night owl?
Favorite decade and why?
"I think right now. [Laughs]. There's not boundaries, it's not defined yet."
Mountains, desert or the beach?
If you could make a hat for a dead historical figure, who would it be?
"Abraham Lincoln, maybe. No, I'd say the Duke of Windsor. He was one of the most stylish men of his time."
And what would you create for him?
"I dunno, I'd have to sit down and talk to him! Something special."
Favorite comfort food?
"A bean and cheese burrito from my kitchen, homemade."
Worst fashion faux pas you've ever committed?
"JNCOs. I used to wear JNCOs!"
Favorite board game?
If you had to give up one of your senses, what would it be?
"Hearing. I could be happy not hearing people for a long time."
What would you ask your 50-year-old self?
"Why did I worry so much?"
Rainy day pastime?
"Listening to music on vinyl, like Otis Redding."
"Essaouira, Morocco. It was a fortified city, I just love it. I can't wait to go back."
What's your next getaway?
I'm actually going to Milan [on] Sunday. I leave and come back and then I leave [again] in a month and I'm going to Ecuador."
Favorite literary character?
· Nick Fouquet Hat Co. [Official Site]
· All A Juice With Posts [Racked]
· Suzy Amis Cameron Loves the Elliptical, Environment & Tahiti [Racked]
· Closet Rich Founder Elizabeth Kott Loves NPR, TLC & Mad Men [Racked]
· Alternative Apparel's Orondava Mumford On His Brooklyn Lean [Racked]