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T Two crows are perched on the sagging power line above Lincoln Boulevard in Los Angeles’ Venice neighborhood cawing their hearts out. When they finally fly away, one of the birds loses a feather. It floats downward in a corkscrew and lands on the ground. A hand reaches for it and carefully picks it up. Perfect. The hand belongs to Nick Fouquet, who has breathed new life into an old handicraft: hatmaking. Fouquet is a dreamer and a rebel. A wayfarer of yore. Lover of fabrics and colors. The jet-black crow’s feather will come in handy for him. The native Frenchman believes in the common decency of a man with a hat. Fouquet loves celluloid films and enjoys reading classic literature. In these worlds he finds the kind of characters that captivate and inspire him: “There was a time historically when a man wouldn’t step out of the house without his hat. I see it as the peak of elegance.” It was a cowboy who saved Nick Fouquet, immersed in his work at the tailor’s table, from an average life. “He entered the room and my sewing machine kept going without me. I only thought, ‘Wow, what a cool hat!’” says the 34-year-old. “For a number of years I just didn’t know what I should do. My father was a model, I was constantly surrounded by fashion, and so at first I worked on and off for a tailor. From the very moment I saw the guy with the hat, I simply wanted and needed to make hats.” His heart pierced by the cowboy, Fouquet learned the trade at one of the last traditional hatmakers in America. Somewhere in Montana. The blissful middle of nowhere. Today, seven years later, thanks to an unrivalled obsession with details and a good dose of madness, it has made Fouquet one of the hottest hatmakers in the Western Hemisphere. Droves of heads — large, small, mostly round — cram through his door at number 853 Lincoln Boulevard in Venice. Sometimes the people they belong to are famous. Renée Zellweger, Richard Roundtree, Madonna, Bob Dylan, Brad Pitt and Pharrell Williams. But Fouquet isn’t concerned with fame. The more prominent names on his list of customers are written on round wooden disks with a simple felt marker just like the others. The disks, which are stacked atop one another, record the circumference of the head he has measured. There are several hundred. Yet Fouquet remembers well his very first hat for a VIP. It was for Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. “Gibbons was open to anything, and I had to think about it for a few days. But then I made him a fierce piece, I’m telling you. I gave him all my lovin’!” says Fouquet, laughing. He describes Gibbons’ hat above his head using wild gestures. Fouquet’s special hatmaking method essentially follows a traditional art of craftsmanship, albeit one which frees itself from every rule and custom, and does not result in the creation of just any hat. “Wyldeflower”, “Seminole Dancer”, “Embrace the Panther” and “Tobacco Thief” await their respective heads. Fouquet’s wood discs correspond to the head sizes of their customers. Whoever can find the most celebrity names wins. 116


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