Nick Wooster, menswear style icon, entrepreneur and self-confessed brand, was in Melbourne, Australia, recently in his role as strategic consultant for Woolmark, witnessing the transformation of natural fibres into wool. “To see how the raw materials are processed is the missing piece for me,” he reflected.
Wooster has spent over 25 years working with leading luxury department stores such as Barney’s New York, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman as well as fashion labels like Thom Browne; buying and editing while progressively and subtly impacting the global landscape of men’s fashion. On the street, his personal style attracts a kind of hysteria for its blend of class, subversion and tradition. After travelling to every major capital in the world Nick Wooster sat down with Neue Luxury to discuss style and luxury.
Paola Di Trocchio: Do you think there is a place for regionality when it comes to fashion? Nick Wooster: I do. In fashion and in physics the same rules apply. For every action there is a reaction. As things become more homogenised or more regular there is always going to be a desire for the opposite. I think that consolidation and conglomerates do occur, but there is always going to be something opposing it.
PD: Australian designers of the 1980s like Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee, were often inspired by our landscape and the tonality and texture of place. Is that something that interests you? NW: For me it just boils down to: ‘is stuff cool?’ Designers that go to Japan for the first time or designers that go to a tropical island, or to Scotland, always manage season after season, year after year to inspire. It’s just their take on that experience. You can take ten people to the same place and they are all going to have a different experience. PD: In the context of menswear, what would luxury mean to you? NW: The only luxury left is time. It’s also the one thing that is unattainable. PD: The only truly limited resource. NW: But the same things that used to apply to the concept of luxury still apply today. Does it feel good? Is it hard to get? Is it handmade? Those are the hallmarks of how we could define luxury today. And that could apply to a sneaker by the way.
The only luxury left is time. It’s also the one thing that is unattainable.
PD: Does tradition have a place when it comes to menswear in the 21st century? NW: I think it will always have a role. To be relevant in menswear you have to be inside the box. And that box is something traditional. Of course people like Hedi Slimane, Rick Owens, Miuccia Prada and Thom Browne have all managed to go right to the edge but they are still within that box. That box can be the most confining thing or the most liberating thing. As long as you stay in the box you are going to be relevant. Rick Owens is maybe more avant-garde than someone like Thom Browne but there is always an aspect that is familiar and I think that is what resonates with menswear. The minute you go outside of that, it becomes irrelevant.
PD: Do you have mentors? NW: I have several. The first was Charlie Roth, who gave me my first job at sixteen. I worked at a family clothing store in Salina, Kansas. He was the son of the founder of the store and hired me as a kid in high school, and I really feel like he taught me everything in terms of the fundamentals of getting dressed properly. When I moved to New York it took a few years to work in this world, but Peter Rizzo who was at Barney’s New York was the person who taught me everything about taste. He taught me how to identify the right fabric, what to look for in a collection and how to edit. The training that those two men provided me has stayed with me to this day.
PD: You have described yourself as a filter, a voice, an editor and a teacher. Which role do you enjoy the most? NW: I enjoy the one that I get to do. I don’t take being here and the projects I work on for granted. This morning I talked to students because it’s my duty to be able to share my knowledge in some way, but by the same token, the filter of editing is great. We all do that. Everybody who gets dressed in the morning plays that role. You’re deciding what to wear. When you do it for a store, for a magazine, you might do it on a bigger scale, but you’re still making that decision. That’s a job that everybody has to do, maybe some enjoy it more than others. It’s a skill that has to be taught.
PD: As one of the most avidly followed men in fashion, are you ever burdened by the responsibility that what you put on in the morning will ultimately be critiqued around the world by the evening? NW: I honestly don’t think about it. I’m probably one of the most insecure and fearful people in life. I’m afraid of everything. But somehow getting dressed isn’t one of them. I don’t like to get my picture taken. I think of myself as kind of shy, but I do exactly the thing that draws attention to myself even though I don’t think about it. I am aware that when it’s fashion week there are likely to be photographers documenting that event, and I hope that I look good, that my clothes fit. Michael Kors says every woman wants to look taller and thinner. But I know it’s true about men as well. They just do. So I worry about that. I worry if I am going to have an unflattering picture. But I am grateful that those who have taken a picture of me so far have been kind. Do I make mistakes? Absolutely. Unfortunately now many more people can see those mistakes.
PD: We’ve seen a huge shift in men’s fashion over the past couple of years. What do you think has been the biggest driver of that change? NW: It has to be the internet. Men don’t like asking for directions. I think it’s the same with getting dressed. Most men don’t know what to do, and rather than ask, they can now secretly find the answers online. So the internet has helped make men feel more comfortable with thinking about how they look. I think that’s been the single most important factor.
PD: What do you think is going to contribute the most to the landscape in the future? NW: The internet. The ability to look online is probably the thing that is going to change everything. In terms of retail, publishing, entertainment, you name it. Every industry today is dealing with transition. But the bottom line is that commerce is going to happen. People are going to buy clothes, people are going to consume entertainment, people are going to watch things, people are going to read things, but clearly the ways that they do it are fundamentally changing.
PD: So what’s next for you? NW: In January 2014 I embarked on something I said I was never going to do: work for myself and become a brand, 2015 is going to be a continuation of that.
Neue Luxury • Issue 3 • Fashion • Feature • BY Paola Di Trocchio SHARE
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