‘Pop Couture’ poster boy Nik Thakkar, he of must read cult blog Karlismyunkle, pretty much owns fashion industry right now; from masterminding Diet Coke’s collaborations with Marc Jacobs and Jean Paul Gaultier, to hosting Fashion TV and SKY, writing for Huffington Post and running his own creative consultancy Nephew London; these are just a few of Thakkar’s achievements. Chasseur sat down with Nik to discuss what makes him tick, how he has achieved his success and maintains his finger so on the pulse, and also about the latest notch in this creative forces belt; Ada + NIk, a menswear line he recently launched at London Collections: Men SS14, in collaboration with LFW womenswear designer Ada Zanditon.
You have an obsession with pop culture and are known as ‘pop couture poster boy’. What fascinates you so, and is pop culture the great driver of modern society?
As someone who literally grew up on MTV, pop culture has definitely shaped who I am as a person and my interests. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some incredible projects that have been intrinsically linked to modern pop culture and high fashion, and in the way that anyone shapes their online voice, what I’m interested in and what I’m working on have overlapped substantially, which I suppose as defined who I am to a certain extent.
Culture defines everything – from politics, to the law, what is socially and morally acceptable to marketing and sales of product; pop culture on the other hand just happens to do all of that and in addition, it has the strength of celebrity and fans. In the era that we live in, where marketing clout and brand perception is shaped on the strength of a brand’s digital voice, nothing is stronger than endorsement and it just so happens that this comes through from a place where numbers are infinitesimally larger.
Regarded by many as a non-conformist and fashion anti-hero, how has your strategy helped propel you to the heights you have attained?
I’m only really a non-conformist when it comes to mainstream British menswear fashion and certainly the accentuated global perception of British menswear that has evolved over the last few years. I’m an anti-dandy at heart and strongly believe in being yourself. I guess I have always seen myself as driving the bandwagon as opposed to jumping on it. In the case of anyone who has made a mark, it is this quality that stands you apart from the rest. It’s not strategic, it’s a genuine differentiator.
Trend forecasting is both an art and a gift, you can learn it to a certain extent, but applying it has to come naturally. A lot of it is circumstantial, I travel a lot for work, so I get to see the world and experience different cultures, people, art, architecture, fashion, styles etc. Trying to absorb everything that surrounds you can be really difficult, especially when you have a million and one emails coming through, but it comes down to little things like trying everything once and looking out of a window when you’re in the back of a taxi as opposed to replying to an email.
The 20th Century belonged to London and New York. Which cities will own the 21st Century?
That is such a bold prediction to make. I was in Moscow for fashion week a couple of months ago, and you cannot deny what the BRIC countries have to offer the world at present. There is a new wave of creativity and passion that has genuine validity and backing. Japan and Japanese culture in an era where technology is at the forefront excites me more than anything, so if I had to pick two cities, they would be Moscow and Tokyo.
You are launching a menswear line with Ada Zanditon. Why fashion design and why now?
Ada and I have been close friends for quite a few years. We met in Paris one night during fashion week – we were the only two people smoking, so bonded over that. I’ve always been a huge admirer of Ada’s designs and have seen nothing but potentially for it to translate into menswear – so when we’d meet for dinner, I’d often ask her when she was going to make boys’ clothes. One night, her response was simply, “when you do it with me.” The rest is history. I’ve always had a vision of menswear that I’d love to create, wear and see people wearing. It’s my personal preference, and creative aesthetic but evolved somewhat. Ada is simply the perfect person for me to do this with. The synergy that we have creatively in the studio is unparalleled. What started as a passion project has become something tangible, that has received global levels of interest and fame and something that I’m more proud of than anything I’ve created before.
Who is the ‘Ada + Nik’ man?
Affluent, rebellious and independent, the Ada + Nik man is uninhibited and self-confident. He has friends who invite him front row at Paris Fashion Week, and summers in the Greek islands or the Hamptons. He has travelled the world for business and pleasure. The Ada + Nik man’s style icons are timeless – James Dean, Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp, James Franco.
He wears Givenchy, Dior Homme, Rick Owens and understands why he is wearing these designers. He adores heritage brands such as Levi’s and balances out progressive and avant garde fashion with Converse or a pair of Dr Martens. He has social clout and surrounds himself with influential peers – designers, pop stars, artists. He is body conscious, regularly working out or attending yoga or Pilates classes. The Ada + Nik man embodies charm and sophistication with a creative edge.
You won’t progress if you don’t break the rules. It’s rare to find someone who is equally adept at business and still has a creative vision, but the two are not mutually exclusive and I suppose I am an example of that.
Considering the relationship between the music and fashion industries, taking for example Saint Laurent’s recent ‘Music Project’ campaign, how do you feel this affects fashion? Does it enhance elitist notions of the industry, or open it up, making it more accessible to the masses?
Fashion and music have forever been and forever will be intrinsically interlinked. Every project that I’ve done to date has demonstrated that and artists such as Lady Gaga, Madonna and Kanye West are living, breathing proof. Music is one of the four cultural pillars (the others being sport, film and now fashion) – it is a mass dictator – everyone listens to music – so of course its influence in fashion and design will forever be strong.
The fact that brands and designers names are thrown around so freely in lyrical verse makes it mainstream and shapes influence and brand culture. Ada + Nik is a brand that will keep ties to music at the heart of every campaign (e.g. we’re working with Zebra Katz on the soundtrack for our current campaign film); this is mostly in part to my passion for the field (oh and I’m also a classically trained pianist and singer), but also because film, music and fashion are literally my reasons for living and breathing. It’s not even a question.