Don’t let Nick Fouquet’s piercing blue eyes and blond-streaked locks fool you. While the former Ralph Lauren model-turned hat maker is easy on the eyes, his passion for the earth and the impact fashion has on it is equally captivating.
It’s Fouquet’s appreciation of “The Hat” and its aura–along with a background in environmental science and sustainable development, as well as a draw to Parisian flea markets for particular textiles- that has landed him an atelier de chapeaux on Los Angeles› Abbott Kinney (named “Coolest Street in America” last year by GQ magazine.
A small shop located in a little enclave off the busy street, I found Nick working with a hat steamer/shaper as well as using fire in the process to shape, age, and place pure character to each hat he signs his name to. Recycling and reuse is a prominent mantra in his work, as evidenced by the steamer/shaper equipment and sewing machines, which are all second-hand from other hat makers around the country. Fouquet also prefers sustainable hat materials, such as beavers harvested for fur and felt in the Czech Republic. (No harm is done to the beavers when they are shaved).
While the hat shop is filled with hats of all sizes, shapes, and styles, no two are alike. That’s because in Fouquet’s vision, a hat is a singular creation, made specifically to order for each individual. Clients often request a special personal touch, such as a feather or pin, which Fouquet is happy to incorporate. His recent patrons were Pharrell Williams and Madonna, who both donned his hats during the recent Grammy awards. When Fouquet speaks about his commitment to sustainable fashion, he points to the domino effect sustainability has from the beginning of the creation of the hat through the duration that a client wears it. His ultimate goal: to create, “The Hat”, one meant to last a lifetime.
Of sustainability comes with its challenges, Fouquet says, and it takes constant focus to remain conscious of the impact to the environment through the entire hat making process. Beginning with shipping the beaver felt from another continent to California, to the plastic the felt is wrapped in, to the cardboard boxes the felt is delivered in, to the impossible shipping when it goes to the client…all is part of the footprint made during the process. Sustainable choices in fashion is a burgeoning concept, and Nick is right on top of things, designing all the way from the footprint to the crown. Now that’s a hat you can fall head over heels for.