Nick Fouquet follows dad Bernard into fashion

Bernard Fouquet, left, a longtime model and the father in the Tommy Hilfiger ad campaigns, with his son Nick Fouquet, also a model as well as a hat maker. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Fantasy meets fatherhood in the world of 62-year-old fashion model Bernard Fouquet.

"I am the father of this big, huge family and I really love that," he says, speaking of his longtime role as patriarch of the preppy family that stars in Tommy Hilfiger advertisements. "Some of the kids disappear, but it's the dad (not the kid) who stays in the picture."

In reality, the French native, whose face has also backed brands such as Brooks Bros. and J.M. Weston, is the father of his own large brood, five daughters and one son. Last month, Fouquet posed for the first time with some of his clan — wife Pascale, daughters Cielle and Gigi and son Nick, a Venice-based hat maker — for the fall 2014 Land's End catalog campaign. Youngest daughter Anouk and Nick's pro surfer girlfriend Kassia Meador joined the group to shoot the spring 2015 UGG Australia ad campaign.

While 31-year-old Nick may be gaining fame as a hatter (Madonna and Pharrell Williams both donned his toppers during their performances at January's Grammy Awards), he also follows in his father's model footsteps. Since 2013, he has appeared in seasonal ad campaigns for Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren, he appears with Meador in a current Levi's ad and he plays the role of a modern California Mad Hatter in a short film shot earlier this year at his Abbot Kinney workshop for Hogan Rebel, the sporty streetwise Italian luxury footwear brand.

Hogan spokeswoman Sipora Anavim says the video went viral after posting on hoganrebel.com in February and has had more than 835,000 YouTube views; it is part of a larger brand campaign, the Rebel Journey. (An accompanying book, $68, is to debut in June at therebeljourney.com).

"Rebels are those kind of people who have a dream and perseverance," says Riccardo Sciutto, general manager of Hogan. "Nick is a fresh creative talent and a virtuous storyteller. We liked his work at first sight. When I saw the video, I found he was the perfect ambassador to kick off the project."

Raised between his father's hometown of Royan, France, and Palm Beach, Fla., (where his mother, Lavinia Baker, resides), Nick settled in Los Angeles in 2008, apprenticing for fellow Frenchman Christophe Loiron, the vintage curator and designer of retro-inspired work wear line Mister Freedom, whom Fouquet refers to as his mentor.

"Nico could literally retire on his good looks and call it a day...He wanted to get his hands dirty, participate in the production side," says Loiron. "I can still see him sweating it with our hot-stamping machine, as he was the 'lucky' one who had to emboss about 400 leather patches for our denim jeans, one by one. He was on the sewing machines, at the silk-screening station, packing boxes, learning the ropes."

In 2011, Nick Fouquet started his hat business (then Westbrook Maker, with former partner Gregory Westbrook) in an underground parking garage in Venice, after purchasing traditional hat-making machinery from retiring milliners in the Midwest. Late last year, Nick Fouquet Hat Co. (nickfouquet.com), moved to its current location at the back of the shared retail space at 1629 Abbott Kinney Blvd.

"My hats have high crowns and wide brims," says Fouquet. "They are a statement that also protect you from the elements: Fashion meets functionality."

Every one-of-a-kind chapeau — from western to fedora to top hats, starting at $525 — is made entirely by hand of beaver felt or mixed media (for example, a felt crown with a straw brim). The intricate and labor-intensive process involves about 20 steps, including custom measuring, steaming and pressing the felt onto mahogany block forms, multiple rounds of drying, sanding to create a fine nap, conditioning, stitching and decorating. The hats are topped off with unique details, such as indigo tie-dyed accents, dirt and fire distressing, paint splatters, Fouquet's original poems hand-penned in French on the band or a few matchsticks tucked under the band. Current wait time for an order is eight weeks (add $150 for a rush).

"He plays with both the Old West and the Old World, reflecting his eclectic ties with both America and France," says Loiron. "Nico's hats are not replicas of vintage pieces, however; they are his own twist and his personality is branded in each collection."

Bernard and Nick Fouquet share a personal fashion aesthetic that is casual-cool — a mix of technical surf wear and adventure gear, relaxed all-American sportswear a la Palm Beach and a French flair for sharp tailoring and seasonless neck scarves tied offhandedly just so.

Last December, father and son launched Fouquet Cachemire, a line of hand-finished seamless cashmere socks ($180) crafted at a heritage factory in France; beanies ($210) are coming soon. Hinting at their aristocratic lineage, the brand's squirrel logo is the crest of their ancestor Nicolas Fouquet, French finance minister under Louis XIV.

These days, Bernard is busy sourcing partnerships in the south of France for more artisan-made wares, including beach towels ($110) and traditional French slippers (from $85); Nick is developing a line of ceramics crafted in Venice ($50-$900), indigo-dyed T-shirts ($65) and a collaborative limited-edition T-shirt with famed photographer and director Ellen von Unwerth, embellished with one of his free-flowing poems and a doodle of a black bunny mask.

Where better to display the new and rapidly growing Nick Fouquet West lifestyle label than a namesake Nick Fouquet retail store, slated to open across the street at 1638 Abbot Kinney Blvd. next weekend? The shop will also showcase curated pieces from brands that are similarly relaxed and refined, such as Thaddeus O'Neil, Matias Denim, Ourcaste and EiR NYC skin care.

And just like that, the Fouquets' style has become a lifestyle brand, bringing back a bit of Venice's original arty spirit.

image@latimes.com