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Styleforum Interviews Nick Wooster at Pitti Uomo 86

unbelragazzo

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@Synthese and I were lucky enough to get a few minutes of Nick Wooster's time at Pitti 86 to talk about his new collaboration with Lardini, his personal style, and being famous on the Internet.

David Isle: First of all, thank you for following me on Twitter. I don’t know if you know this, but you follow me on twitter.

Nick Wooster: OK.

Awkward, hesitant laughter.

DI: We’re off to a great start.

Jasper L: Yep.

DI: Being an internet celebrity, and in the fashion world for a while, how do you turn that into a business?

NW: Long pause. More awkward laughter. I don’t know. I’m trying to figure that out. I mean, I honestly don’t know, and I am trying to figure that out. But I’ve always kind of worked around clothes, so it’s never been something foreign to me - like I’m a person who came in from another world and decided to do this. So, hopefully, the ten thousand hours that I’ve probably done this will pay off.

DI: You said at the press conference that you swore to yourself that you wouldn't ever design a collection.

NW: I did. I also say I hate having my picture taken, which is true, but when all this started, the place where I started to see all these horrible negative comments about me was Styleforum.net.

JL: I'm so glad we had made such an impact on you.

NW: I'm like, who are these people? But it doesn't matter; I mean, it’s funny to me more than anything. Sorry, what was the question?

DI: What made you take that oath and why have you now broken it?

NW: Oh, oh. Because of things like that. I - look - I'm a sensitive person so I never wanted to put [myself] out there in that way [by designing a collection] so in the past I have always worked for people. But that isn't my path, so now I've been given this opportunity, and I'm doing it, and it's awesome.

DI: What was the personal transformation that took you from not that place of not wanting to put yourself out too much there to a place where you literally have your face on your clothes?

NW: Well, I think that the universe - and the Internet - told me otherwise. I feel like now it’s kind of an obligation. Look, I get it. It’s, you know, it’s the way now that it is for me. I can't change that. I'm very flattered and very honored by it. So here I am.

JL: After decades in the business, do you now feel more comfortable - not selling yourself - but being the face of something you believe in?

NW: Exactly - that has naturally happened, so I can't fight it. Also, it’s the fact that this is a collaboration. I couldn't do this on my own. If I went out on my own to try and find people to make these kinds of jackets and shirts and pants and shoes like these - I don't physically know how to do that. Well, I do know, physically, how to do that, but I don’t, physically, want to do that. This made it easier for me.

DI: Has Pitti turned into a different thing than when you first started coming here?

NW: It has and it hasn't. I always say, it's like Italy; it changes but it really remains the same. Maybe there weren't as many people taking the pictures [in the past] but there were always the same peacocks hanging out and smoking. That hasn't changed. The volume has, or the quantity. But it's always been kind of the same. And it's always been about people talking and networking, more than buying. You don't see people at tables to write orders.

DI: You have a very strong personal style that has been imitated by many others. Do you get frustrated that so many people imitate you that you don't seem as unique anymore?

NW: I've always marched to the beat of my own drum. I'm kind of agnostic, I don't really know or care. I do what I do because I like it, and I've always done that.

JL: Moving to the clothes themselves - you mentioned that you liked the contrast between aged and faded tops and cleaner bottoms. Is there a reason for that goes beyond just aesthetics?

NW: Well, I've always said that I dress as sort of a sartorial mullet. I like it one way on the top and some other way on the bottom, which usually means distressed on top and then something else on the bottom. So it's a version of that. I like contrast and tension in rooms and in clothes.

JL: So that’s something that goes beyond styling jackets - more of a personal philosophy?

NW: Yeah, yeah.

DI: What are some of the details you look for most on a jacket?

NW: Well, I always look to see if it has working buttonholes first. And then also the fit of the collar around the neck. How the shoulder is set in. These are things that I think differentiate something that's well-made versus something that isn't. But not everything has to be precious. I also like things that are not perfect.

JL: Who do you think will be buying this collection? Where are they coming from?

NW: I gotta believe that it's somebody who is style-aware and style-conscious. This isn't for the masses, probably. Most people will look at it and say, "it's wrinkled." My mom would say that. I don't have to appeal to that. There's plenty of other options [for them]. But I do think there are people who look to brands, designers, clothing, to do something else, and maybe that's what we have accomplished here, is it does something else.

JL: Where do you see yourself fitting in that continuum between traditional and, say, avant-garde fashion? Between say, Thom Browne and Rick Owens?

NW: Love Thom Browne. I'll put it this way - I saw Nick McClish wear a Polo jacket with a pair of Rick Owens pants, and I immediately started wearing Thom Browne with Rick Owens because those are two things that don't go together. I think that's what is the essence of this collection - it could be something completely classic - for Pitti - or something completely whack - like me. That's what's interesting to me. Now, whether or not anybody else thinks that’s interesting, I don’t know. I like classic, not classic; structured, not structured; clean and dirty. I don't want to put myself in any of those categories, but I think brands like - well, like the universe of Comme des Garçons, they do things like that. This is just my take. But I'm just a guy from Kansas.

DI: I thought it was interesting you included a tuxedo in the collection. Is that an attempt to heighten this contrast between the classic and the not classic?

NW: Yes, and also three Mondays ago I was at the CFDA awards and put on a Thom Browne tuxedo and it occurred to me, "Fuck, we didn't make a tuxedo!" And I want that jacket (pointing to the most traditionally-styled of the jacket designs) made up as a tuxedo. So I phoned them up and they made it for me.

DI: So will you be wearing that at a black tie event sometime soon?

NW: I hope so.

JL: You talked about coming from Kansas - over the last decade, menswear has exploded in revenue but also just in general awareness. You have been a huge part of that, and you’ve seen the whole thing happen. Do you think that interest in fashion for men is now an accepted part of the global mainstream?

NW: I think it's becoming that way. I mean, who would have thought twenty years ago that there would be such a thing as gay marriage? Or gays having kids? So I think all things are possible, and that’s very much part of it. Yeah, people are changing. People care and people are changing.

JL: And with those changing social structures, what role do you think fashion has in how we perceive contemporary masculinity?

NW: I think it has a lot to do with it because so much of our information is based on what we see, so we see someone and immediately think, "man" or "woman" if they're wearing a dress or a skirt. And clearly those things are changing, especially among young people. It's much more fluid with them than it is with people my age. It's a good thing.

JL: Where do you think the industry is headed now that Kanye West is showing up at fashion shows? Everything’s gotten so fluid. How do the older brands survive and stay relevant and interesting without coming off as affected?

NW: Well, maybe by doing collaborations like this one. Meaning, they see their part of the world and see that there's an opportunity to do something else. But even for me, as much as I’m interested in odd things and interesting things, I always want something familiar. I think men are like that. There's always going to be classic, and not-classic. And now there's more of a blending of the two, and hopefully that's where this collection fits in.

DI: Even within not-classic, though, I think people sometimes find a look and stick to it.

NW: Yeah, I think people can be slow to evolve. They just get in a lane and they don’t change. And that's human nature, maybe more male than female. But even that process gets sped up.

JL: Has the Internet changed fashion?

NW: I think yes and no. It's just another tool. In the old days there were newspapers and magazines, maybe TV. The Internet is just another channel. I don't think it's killing something, just another option.

DI: It does allow you to focus your message towards a particular niche more.

NW: It's like cable TV - it's just splintered. There's still the audience, there's just more options.

JL: So now that you've done this once, are you doing it again?

NW: Yes, we are doing it again.

JL: Do you have any plans to push for your own brand?

NW: This is a first step towards some new things.

JL: Last question. I grew up in Colorado, my mom rides horses, we had tack pins all over the house - why the big blanket pins?

NW: Why not? I liked it.


















 
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cyc wid it

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@Synthese, maybe I misremember, but I recall you mentioning something about a comparison to Harnden way back when all of this was first teased.
 

ShoutOutsFoMyBo

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i like it. seems like a relatively practical way to get that dapper hobo look. makes me think of william s burroughs in on the road
 

Watashidake

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@Synthese , maybe I misremember, but I recall you mentioning something about a comparison to Harnden way back when all of this was first teased.
The peak lapel, the leather button-backings, the the wrinkled fabric - it's easy to see why that comparison would be made
Wasn't Wooster photographed wearing PH a few times as well?
 

ManofKent

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Nice interview guys
 

penanceroyaltea

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how is it that a wrinkled blazer equates to harnden?

nice interview guys!
 

Synthese

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how is it that a wrinkled blazer equates to harnden? 

nice interview guys! 

You can see what I meant in the photo of him holding the microphone. It's not "Harnden," but that particular jacket (and the wrinkled glen plaid) is very much taking on that whole, I don't know, pre-industrial revolution English hobo thing, or whatever you want to call it. I didn't find it offensive.
 

marblehouse

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DI: What are some of the details you look for most on a jacket?

NW: Well, I always look to see if it has working buttonholes first. And then also the fit of the collar around the neck. How the shoulder is set in. These are things that I think differentiate something that's well-made versus something that isn't. But not everything has to be precious. I also like things that are not perfect.

I've asked women about why the buy certain brands and they respond with criteria like "well-made" or "quality," but then elaborate and it's really about their aesthetics. NW comes across as having a similar view here - which seems to be a modern progression in wanting fit and style, but making sure you have enough tentative reference points to avoid appearing modish.

Thank you for the interview.
 
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rach2jlc

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I legit feel bad about this

Why? Nobody talked about him as a person/human being, which none of us know. I'm sure he's a perfectly nice person, pays his taxes, treats his mother well, and picks up the tab when a friend needs a beer.

With fashion stylists, I suppose that because the image/public front is one's self (as opposed to paintings, movies one directed, collections one designed, etc.) it appears that people are attacking an individual when they are critical. From what I recall, the comments were mostly about him as a public style icon and the degree of toadying and hype that surrounded that image.

Until now, he's not been a designer, so it was hard to "attack" anything about him except for the persona he created. But, again, that's a public/professional persona, and really not any different than if we criticized Ford or Bose or Taco Bell.

That's all quite different than when I say, for instance, that I hope Conne gets run over by a pack of incontinent mules.
 
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Connemara

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Why? Nobody talked about him as a person/human being, which none of us know. I'm sure he's a perfectly nice person, pays his taxes, treats his mother well, and picks up the tab when a friend needs a beer.

With fashion stylists, I suppose that because the image/public front is one's self (as opposed to paintings, movies one directed, collections one designed, etc.) it appears that people are attacking an individual when they are critical. From what I recall, the comments were mostly about him as a public style icon and the degree of toadying and hype that surrounded that image.

Until now, he's not been a designer, so it was hard to "attack" anything about him except for the persona he created. But, again, that's a public/professional persona, and really not any different than if we criticized Ford or Bose or Taco Bell.

That's all quite different than when I say, for instance, that I hope Conne gets run over by a pack of incontinent mules.

So I'll get trampled and receive a golden shower?! :bounce2:
 

Coxsackie

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Why? Nobody talked about him as a person/human being, which none of us know. I'm sure he's a perfectly nice person, pays his taxes, treats his mother well, and picks up the tab when a friend needs a beer.

With fashion stylists, I suppose that because the image/public front is one's self (as opposed to paintings, movies one directed, collections one designed, etc.) it appears that people are attacking an individual when they are critical. From what I recall, the comments were mostly about him as a public style icon and the degree of toadying and hype that surrounded that image.

Until now, he's not been a designer, so it was hard to "attack" anything about him except for the persona he created. But, again, that's a public/professional persona, and really not any different than if we criticized Ford or Bose or Taco Bell.

That's all quite different than when I say, for instance, that I hope Conne gets run over by a pack of incontinent mules.
This is an intelligent analysis but I think it misses one important point: when one attacks Wooster the persona, one also inevitably attacks Wooster the person.

Synthese's interview is timely because it reveals the person behind the Wooster persona. It's all too easy to vilify an internet meme. Becomes a lot more difficult when the meme is revealed to be a living, breathing human bean. Especially if that human bean never really intended/suspected that an internet meme based on his likeness be created - which is what I read from NW's comments above.

Far from being an arsehole/wanker/poseur/whatever, it seems that NW is actually just a real guy like the rest of us, trying to make a living out of his passion. Good on him. Plus I quite like the clothes.
 

rach2jlc

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This is an intelligent analysis but I think it misses one important point: when one attacks Wooster the persona, one also inevitably attacks Wooster the person.

Synthese's interview is timely because it reveals the person behind the Wooster persona. It's all too easy to vilify an internet meme. Becomes a lot more difficult when the meme is revealed to be a living, breathing human bean. Especially if that human bean never really intended/suspected that an internet meme based on his likeness be created - which is what I read from NW's comments above.

Far from being an arsehole/wanker/poseur/whatever, it seems that NW is actually just a real guy like the rest of us, trying to make a living out of his passion. Good on him. Plus I quite like the clothes.

This is fair, though I disagree with your first sentence. I don't really see that there is a direct connection between a private individual behind a brand and the brand itself such that criticism of one necessarily implies criticism of the other. His persona was his brand.

OR, if the brand/persona idea isn't clear, perhaps it's almost like criticizing an actor playing a role. We could say X actor was a wanker in a certain film, but that really doesn't carry over to who he "really" is such that we should feel compelled to apologize or feel guilty about our remarks when we find ourselves at the same dinner party.

I do agree, though, that he seems like a pretty genuine guy who loves what he does. I'm also excited to see SF getting notice and interviews with a wide range of designers and styles. I just don't think we need to tone down the rhetoric in order to be nice to our houseguests. Under or within all that cattiness often lies some fairly accurate analysis.

Anyway, enough of all that! Back to the clothes. I've always thought Lardini was a nice brand that deserved (terrible name aside) more positive attention. The pics I see in this collection aren't quite my style, but it might be a nice start to something bigger for the brand.
 
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Coxsackie

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Wrong thread
 
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