If you want a hat that will instantly turn you into the coolest person in the room
Fouquet is your guy. We talk to the model-turned-milliner about
California vibes, celebrity
fans and how a chance encounter with a cowboy
lead him to become a “Mad Hatter”…
On how it how it all began...
I feel in a lot of ways I didn't decide, it just happened. Like it was meant to be. It almost chose me – not to sound cheesy!
I would be lying if I said I always knew this was what I was going to do… I’d always wanted to do my own thing and
I was looking at all the clothing out there and I felt like everything was sort of oversaturated in the market, and then one day, I bumped into this cowboy on the street and he was wearing this beautiful hat and I asked him, “Where did you get your hat?” “Well I made it,” he said. I asked him who else was doing it and he said that there were around 30 hat makers in America and about 300 in the world. He’s like, “No one does this, it’s a lost art.” And then I just realized that there’s something special about this sort of trade.
Before I knew it I was acquiring all of this old equipment through hat makers that were going out of business in the Mid-West. The machine equipment in general is outdated
and hard to find; it was a massive treasure hunt.
I never really approached it from the perspective of ‘oh this is a viable career option.’ When I started making hats 6 years ago people called me a ‘mad hatter’ for thinking that I could make a living doing this sort of art. So when I started it was more of a passion project that became an obsession and then turned into a full time business and I feel super fortunate.
I’m learning everyday still, and hope that is always the case. I had various people give me tips in the beginning, but it's a secret art so no one was really willing to give me all the secrets. We had to come up with our own method. Not everyone makes hats the same way. You learn as you go. I learn new things all the time.
On his process...
It’s a lot of steaming, fire, water, and sewing… rinse and
repeat sort of… There are maybe 25 steps in making my hats
and they’re so long I don't know if I would have enough time
to accurately describe them! There’s a lot of sanding, steaming, curing, and waiting. Its about being patient, which I've gotten
a little better at.
On his hats...
When I started it was a really niche market and people were working in a really traditional, clean-cut style and I thought, wow, this could be a really interesting way for me to express my creative voice.
I didn’t invent the hat, but my work is a platform for me to modify and enhance an old craft in a more contemporary way. It’s an industry that hasn’t really changed in a very long time so I saw it as an opportunity to put my own touch on what a hat should look like. 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. In the beginning, a lot of hat makers were appalled that I would use fire, throw paint on a hat, distress the felt, reinvent shapes… I felt that I could have a lot more fun and I feel that hats should be that way, a fun accessory.
On his personal style...
It's a melange of bohemian chic, with grit, classical elements and elegance. Like Keith Richards meets a cowboy, meets an Indian from Jaipur, meets a samurai, meets a French country club member!
On travelling and inspiration...
I went to university in America for environmental science and sustainable development but travelling was my real education; where I could actually be immersed in different cultures, be with the people and sort of get that other-worldly perspective on what life is. And that is a huge part of the brand and the work that goes into it. I’m really influenced by my travels.
I had a rather transient upbringing; I was born in New York, grew up in the southwest of France, moved to Florida, went to school in New England… I’ve lived in Colorado, I’ve worked in Australia, Morocco and Nepal and I have lived quite a nomadic lifestyle.
I actually ended up being in California by accident. I came here and I was only supposed to stay a couple of weeks. I went surfing and blew out one of my knees and had to take rehabilitation for a couple of months and then I didn’t leave. So that’s how I ended up here and that’s where I found my mentor who I worked under for a couple of years.
On who he designs for...
You know, the thing is I have made so many hats for so many demographics, I never really restrict myself to a specific category or type of person. I have made hats for stockbrokers, musicians, surfers, athletes, actors… and I admire every single one of those individuals, so I wouldn’t say that there is a specific person that I want to cater to or design for, it’s really broad.
On his celebrity following...
I mean it’s always flattering and really gratifying to see your work on artists that you admire, to know that they appreciate your work. Just recently Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses got in touch about a hat and that’s something I’m really excited about and with the whole revival of the band it just feels like really great timing. It’s funny because when I set up my shop Billy Gibbins – the world famous guitar player from ZZ Top – was actually my first ever client; a legendary musician and very interesting first client!