Style icon, en­tre­pre­neur, free agent.

Neue Luxury - - Front Page - By Paola Di Troc­chio


“To see how the raw ma­te­ri­als are pro­cessed is the miss­ing piece for me” he re­flected. Wooster has spent over twenty-five 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 sub­tlety 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 trav­el­ing 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. PT: 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.

PT: 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. PT: 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. PT: 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. PT: 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 Bar­neys 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. PT: 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. PT: 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. PT: 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. PT: 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. PT: 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.

Photo: Courtesy of The Woolmark Com­pany.


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