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Many of pop’s royalty are trading in their crowns for custom-made toppers by Los Angeles hat designer Nick Fouquet. Pharrell Williams and Madonna both took the Grammy stage this year wearing his one-of-a-kind designs, and Chris Brown, Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway also count themselves as fans.
“[Hats are] the pinnacle of elegance in so many ways, both for their fashion and utilitarian purposes,” says the 31-year-old hatmaker (“not milliner, there’s a difference,” he’s quick to note; milliners use “sectional blocking technique” unlike the unified block technique employed by hatmakers, says Fouquet), whose studio is tucked away off Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
Born in New York and raised in Florida and Southern France, Fouquet holds a degree in environmental sciences and sustainable development and, between modeling gigs for Ralph Lauren, Levi’s and Guess, has apprenticed for a handful of fashion labels.
“Hat-making is a dying art — there are only about 30 artisans in America, and 300 in the world,” says Fouquet, who took to the craft seven years ago after meeting a cowboy who taught him how. Each handmade hat is spun from heritage fabrics, like Ecuadorian straw or beaver fur felt (“one of the most durable materials”), and takes roughly 24 hours to create after intense distressing, dyeing and chemical treatments.
Fouquet always aims for a personal touch, such as Madonna’s cowboy hat that glistened at the Grammys with thin gold wiring and Williams’ wide-brimmed fedora featuring distressed green paint and whipstitched ribbon around the brim.
Although Fouquet considers it an honor to work with such marquee artists, the hatter (who spends his off time riding waves with his pro-surfer girlfriend Kassia Meador) seems unfazed by all the attention. “I’m a huge fan of Keith Richards, though, so if he came through and wanted a hat, I’d be like, ‘Damn!’ Keith Richards, the pope or the Dalai Lama.”
The music mogul — seen here at the BET Awards — deserves credit for the current hat craze.
The fashion icon, having a Western moment, performed at the 2014 Grammys.
The actor-musician wore a Humphrey Bogart-esque topper to the U.K. premiere of Dallas Buyers Club.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 27 issue of Billboard magazine.
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