Nick Fouquet – The Mad Hatter

Baxter Culture

Nick Fouquet is a hat maker based out of Venice Beach, California. Nick can be found cruising Abbott Kinney with his tea, riding through the streets of Venice on his vintage BMW motorcycle, or surfing at first point Malibu throughout the week, but when he isn’t living the California dream he is hard at work in his shop making hats for the likes of some pretty famous heads.  He has learned the trade of making hats over the years and crafts them by hand in his humble workshop in Venice on Lincoln Blvd. Nick is a friend of ours and we think he embodies the Baxter spirit and way of life. If you are in need of a good hat, as every man is, stop by and have a chat with the man. You can get more information about Nick Fouquet hats on his website here.  Baxter Contributor Danny DiMauro recently visited Nick in his workshop to get the whole story. Check out the interview below.

IMG_9819-EditDanny: Alright, we’re here with Nick Fouquet of Nick Fouquet Hats in Venice. Where are you from originally, where did you grow up?

Nick: I was born in New York City and grew up in the southwest of France ‘til I was about 8. Then I moved to south Florida.IMG_9803-EditDanny: How did you end up in California?

Nick: I was living in Colorado and I was kinda done living there. I had lived in New York before and I didn’t know where else to go except for LA. So I called a friend up and he told me to come to LA. I told him I didn’t like LA and he’s like, “Well, I’m in Venice.” I didn’t know where that was, but I came out and I was like dude this is it. Like, “I can’t believe this is in LA…this is f*****g awesome!” It’s like the Lower East Side with skaters and surfers and there’s art and its dirty and there’s guns. I said, “Dude, I love it!”

(Danny laughs)

I came here and I was only supposed to stay a couple of weeks. I went surfing and I tore my meniscus and then I didn’t leave. So that’s how I ended up here.IMG_9735-EditDanny: That’s pretty awesome, it’s so true. How did you end up becoming a hat maker?

Nick: It wasn’t a part of the career path. I went to school for environmental science and sustainable development and I always had my finger in fashion. I’d always f**k around on industrial sewing machines when I was in college and working with friends making stuff. That was my medium. I just liked altering clothes. I worked in fashion in New York for advertising or modeling and I’ve always
been more interested in that side of the business, rather than being in front of the camera. I apprenticed under this designer that was my mentor for a couple of years and I really learned the ins and outs of IMG_9782-Edithow to sew, how to make suspenders, how to make belts, how to make bags, put clothing together, how to merchandise. It was like I was getting paid to go to school. I also dropped in on some classes out here at Otis Parsons, but I didn’t really learn all that much. I’m the type of person that learns more hands on. So then one day I met this cowboy on the street and he had this really amazing hat and I
asked him, “Where did you get your hat?” “Well I made it,” he said. And then I just realized that there’s something special about this sort of trade. I was like, “Who does it?” There are 25 hat makers in the US and 300 in the world. He’s like, “No one does this, its a lost art.” So I said “I’m gonna try to do my own thing. How about we collaborate and get this going?” So I garnered the finances and shopped all over the Midwest for hat makers that were sort of going out of business or too old. I acquired a bunch of their equipment and brought it back. And then with some of his knowledge and my knowledge together, we sort of f****d around and made things happen. Then right off the bat, we started getting clients in this underground basement on Abbott Kinney. Then we split apart because he got sick and I was like f**k, do I keep going or do I stop? Then this space opened up on Abbott Kinney and I rolled the dice. No risk, no reward, let’s just do it. And I’m happy I did. It wasn’t expected, it sort of came to find me.IMG_9801-EditDanny: It seems like your timing was really good, because it feels like hats are really making a resurgence right now, wouldn’t you agree?

Nick: Yeah, totally.

Danny: Why do you think that is?

Nick: I’m not 100% sure. There’s been some ups and downs with hats. I knew hats were coming back 5 years ago, but they were low quality, stingy brands. I think if you look at it on the timeline, I’d say the Grammys had a big deal to do with hats coming back. And it was super fortunate that I was one of the designer hat makers that actually had hats on two of the most important people that night – Pharrell and Madonna. I didn’t expect or anticipate the sort of recognition I would get or the effect it would have on hats, but that IMG_9764-Editwas the talk of that whole thing. And I think that’s a big point. Men are more and more becoming this fashionable metropolitan man. I mean, there’s nothing more elegant than a hat, and that to me is the pinnacle of elegance. Like a beautiful, proper hat. I think that men are recognizing that they’re buying $1000 John Lobb shoes, $450 selvedge denim jeans, $300 Pink shirts, but yet they’re wearing a $10 boardwalk hat. It just doesn’t add up. To me, you can’t go cheap with hats. It’s expensive fabric, it’s custom made. You’re getting something uniquely tailored for you and there is something super personal about it.

Danny: What differentiates your hat from a boardwalk hat? Can you explain the process and how you add your personal touch to the hats?

Nick: The difference with what we do is it is really custom made from start to finish. Where a boardwalk hat is machine made in China on an assembly line. Ours have soul. Ours have your personal intentions and ideas put into it. It’s tailor made for you. It’s like getting a custom surfboard. There’s love, time and something intrinsic that you can’t explain…which makes all the difference.IMG_9795-EditDanny: But then there’s some signature touches that you add. I mean, I’ve seen you burn hats.

Nick: Yeah. To me, it’s like I didn’t invent the hat. And I’m not reinventing the hat. I’m just sort of taking my taste and my sauce in the recipe and making it my own. Traditional fedoras and Homburgs and western cowboy hats have been done, and if I were to try to remake those I’d be doing the same thing as everyone else did. What I’m trying to do is put my twist and touch and taste on it. Make it unique, make it different and make it mine. So when I put those aspects of burning or some special oil or some beaded items that I found in Nepal, it’s basically just putting my touch on it.



Danny: You were most recently featured in the latest Guess campaign with some of your hats. Is it ever hard to be around some of the most beautiful women in the world?

Nick: Well I live with the most beautiful woman in the world. So, you know, I don’t really look at anybody else. I only have eyes for my girl. But, it’s an honor to be able to have these big brands that come to me and let me be in their campaign. It’s an honor to show my work on such a high level. And yes, it’s always amazing to have the company of those girls. They’re sweet. So yeah, it’s always a fun time being on those shoots.

IMG_9756-EditDanny: Let’s talk about your “lady” for a minute. Your girlfriend is surfing royalty…a living legend. Is it hard to surf with her some times?

Nick: You know, I don’t even think she knows it. But yeah, it is for me. I’m super intimidated by her caliber of surfing. I think she surfs better than most guys that I know. Her style is so next level! I mean, I grew up surfing, but I didn’t get full into like she did where she was so immersed and consumed by it. I took it in waves. I got into it and then I stopped. It wasn’t like I was full “surf head” 24/7. But her style is so killer and it’s intimidating sometimes surfing with her. I’d like to see her make a hat.

Danny: You have a great sense of personal style. How would you define your look?

Nick: There’s so many mix-matches and mash-ups in my style. I like to refer to it as Keith Richards meets a samurai, meets Huck Finn, meets a country club member, meets a cowboy. That’s my style!IMG_9822-EditDanny: Amazing! Who are some other noteworthy people you have made hats for and who were you most excited to make a hat for?

Nick: I was most excited to make a hat for my mom. She had been asking me and deserved it more than anybody I know, period. But I’ve put hats on Bob Dylan, Pharrell, Diane Keaton, Billy Gibbons (from ZZ Top) and Bono. I mean, the list goes on.

Danny: Who do you want to make a hat for that you haven’t made a hat for yet?

Nick: I really want to make one for Keith.

Danny: Keith Richards?

Nick: Yeah, he’s a big style influence of mine. Like I mentioned earlier with my mix-mashes of styles. But that guy is just the man, you know. I’d be super stoked for him to wear one of our hats.

Danny: Alright, that’s it. Thanks, Nick!

Nick: Thanks, Danny!