Object lessons in Grand Britannia: day 8 - Nick Wakeman of Studio Nicholson
Nick Wakeman, of British label Studio Nicholson, gives menswear classics a sense of femininity and Italian quirk in her London studio.
Nick Wakeman has a soft spot for Italy. Not only does she makes several trips there a year, she cannot give enough praise to their fabric industry, and reveals she has a thing for Italian males - or their style, at least.
“[Italian men] are just so incredibly, impeccably well dressed,” she says. “I think the young guys are are a little flashy, but then you can go up to guys who are like 60 and 70 in the street, and [they have this sense of] sprezzatura, which means kind of like, quirkiness in how they put an outfit together. It’s like, okay I’ve got a shirt on, but I’ll roll one sleeve up and I’ll keep the other one down. Or… I won’t wear a shirt under my jacket, I’ll just wear a little scarf.
“It’s a quirk, do you know what I mean, and I think that’s really interesting.”
Indeed, she holds Italian male fashion in such high regard she considers it the main inspiration for her label Studio Nicholson, itself based on the British menswear canon (Oxford button downs, relaxed chinos, etc…) but ultimately infused with this sense of sprezzatura.
This ability to imbue clothes with personality is part of what the Nottingham-born, now London-based designer does. Her first label before Studio Nicholson, Birdy, was a streetwear label targeted towards a younger audience (Wakeman started the label in her mid-twenties), full of prints and vibrancy, and finished with a “f*ck off attitude, do you know what I mean?” she says. She says sorry straight away, almost sheepishly, but the apology is almost unnecessary; the cussing hardly registers, tempered as it is by her very proper British accent.
Much like Wakeman herself, Studio Nicholson melds strength, feistiness, class and gentle femininity all into one. Add to this Wakeman’s passion for textiles - she studied it at the Chelsea College of Art and is a self-confessed aficionado; “my biggest love in the world is fabric. It’s what gets me really excited,” she says - and the results are deft explorations of form, line and silhouette through cloth, even as she seeks to re-work those chinos she spent years creating as a former Marks & Spencer menswear designer (she never said she admired the Italians for their relaxed lifestyle). Her latest fixation is viscose, with the material’s soft fluidity providing a counterbalance to her pieces’ masculinity.
“My core design values are that I take a masculine silhouette, a masculine classic piece like the Oxford button down or whatever, and I feminise it by adding, how to describe it… adding a kind of fluidity and softness. [So] when I choose fabrics, they’ve got to be incredibly feminine, because my styling is quite masculine,” she says.
The masculinity is simply an extension of her own personal style; she has, she confesses,“always worn men’s shirts, and tailored men’s jackets to fit”. Studio Nicholson, it seems, was the excuse to create the pieces she always wanted to wear. But what was it about the masculine that attracted her in the first place?
“The classic styling of menswear, I think that is really attractive to me… but I think more so, it’s the identity of the masculine silhouette,” she says. “It’s just a bit more laid back, and it’s got a nonchalant attitude to it.
“I just also find [menswear] a much more no-nonsense approach to getting dressed. I mean, it’s about classic, simple styling, you know, you can almost do it in the dark.”
On a side note, she may be British but she’s stocked in Australia - her first shipment to The Standard Store, 503 Crown St Surry Hills is on its way.