Nick Wooster Opens Up His Legendary Closet Exclusively For Grailed
Nick Wooster Opens Up His Legendary Closet Exclusively For Grailed
- Words Lawrence Schlossman
- Date March 2, 2017
Nick Wooster needs no introduction. The industry vet and street style superstar is seemingly everywhere and for good reason. It seems like everyone has a favorite picture of Nick because, frankly, nobody wears clothes quite like he does. The self-proclaimed "free agent" has been killing it for decades, building a fervent fanbase who wait with bated breath for his next project or collaboration. Here at Grailed, we couldn't be more excited for the exclusive opportunity to open up his legendary closet for our users and his loyal followers. Below, read an intimate and illuminating conversation with Nick where, amidst the whirlwind of Fashion Week, he opened up about everything from his thoughts on the current state of menswear to where his storied career might go from here.
Photos by Chris Fenimore.
How are you?
Cold and behind schedule.
How was your fashion month overall?
You know, I think it’s been okay. The way I would describe it is a season of transition.
What does that mean exactly?
Well, I think we’re going somewhere like our political climate, like Brexit, like just about everything we’re not really sure where it’s going to land.
We’re going somewhere, but we’re not exactly sure what the destination is.
Have there been any highlights for you because obviously, you’ve been to every fashion week, it’s New York Fashion Week right now what are some things that off the top stand out?
Today was seminal with Raf Simons at Calvin Klein and I think what’s interesting about that is that it’s interesting—that there’s something there that I think will spark interest in a brand that has been pretty dormant. I mean, it’s a huge business…
And you used to work there so you know better than anyone.
It’s part of your story.
There’s a kinship there. I think it’s amazing that it has a third chapter let’s say. Certainly the Calvin years are one thing, and the Francisco years were something else and now I think that we’re into the third phase. For sure it’s going to be meaningful to New York.
I think that people feel that Raf’s presence in New York is super invigorating. How do you feel about where New York Fashion Week: Men’s specifically is at so far?
Well, thank god for that. I mean, I think that was sort of the lynchpin of the whole thing and, you know, I’m not gonna bash on New York Men’s Fashion Week because it’s the right thing for us to have and it’s the right thing to do.
But it could use something…
It needed an injection and this certainly was something, but I said something to WWD, and I’ll say it to you: In my opinion, the single most important luxury brand in the United States is Nike. And I think that Nike could own something like this week because I really think that’s the brand of all brands.
Well, they are doing a lot of Fashion Week collaborations with Acronym, CdG, VLONE, so I think they’re trying to get into that game and tap into that energy. What do you think they could do more?
I don’t think they necessarily have to do anything. All they have to do is present it, you know? Everyone I’ve met at Nike is so interesting. Just, like, collaborations with Tom Sachs, those kinds of things, and all the brands you just talked about. Can you imagine a Nike Comme des Garcons sub-brand? Just a whole line of whatever they could come up with, in the same way Supreme and Vuitton just worked together. That’s the other single most interesting thing for me. I loved it and I know not everybody did and that’s fine. Look, it’s a different world. I can’t believe that I’m saying that Nike is the most important luxury brand or designer in the United States, but it is. And that’s cool, so I just think it’s a different day, it’s a different time and I think that the Supreme Vuitton thing was absolutely amazing especially because I’m a merchant so I think about how if you owned a store you would be fucking minting money and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what we’re here for.
How do you feel about this kind of emergence, more so than ever, of streetwear in the high-fashion realm? Do you think that’s something that’s good for fashion?
Look, if you asked me 25 years ago, “Should we be wearing sneakers and sweatpants?” I’d of said, “Absolutely not.” But times have changed. Even I don’t wear jackets the way that I used to. I love tailoring and I love the idea of it, but it’s just not practical for how I live today. Sweaters, T-shirts and a giant coat, these are things I think are modern. Like you see today, I’m wearing Rick Owens sneakers instead of boots. That for me is better all-weather gear than lacing up difficult boots. I love Viberg boots, I love those kinds of things, but as a practical matter it’s not modern.
Right, there’s easy modern elements from streetwear that kind of make dressing and even, as an extension, just existing much easier, from comfort to practicality and things of that nature.
Again, I hate talking about it, but if there was a trend of the season, I would say it’s technical outerwear. And it’s not because I don’t think a cloth coat is a beautiful thing because it is. But at the end of the day, if you’re going from three different climates in a three week period you’re not bringing wool coats or shearlings, you’re bringing technical outerwear and that’s cool.
Are you someone who enjoys trends? Because I feel like menswear, more so than ever, is in this hyper-trendy place where things are changing at a clip where, even a year ago, it now feels like things were taking forever to shift. Are you a fan of this hyper-trendiness?
Here’s the thing, I’m a consumer. I love new shit and I love cool shit, whether if it’s sweatpants and sneakers, if it’s technical outerwear, if it’s whatever.
There’s this idea of mixing and matching, how all of these things can coexist. Again, maybe a couple of years ago, there were these kinds of walls up between these different genres, but now it’s almost a complete level playing field where you see an LV collaborating with Supreme. There really is this inclusiveness and democratization that I personally think is fantastic for menswear and makes things as exciting as they can be.
Anything that’s going to move the needle forward or push the ball down the field or whatever…
Haha, whatever sports metaphor makes the most sense...
I mean, I can think of stuff to do with balls, but anyway, the point is that yes, I think it’s good.
You’ve talked about how you’re a consumer and buying new stuff, but what about the stuff you’re releasing through Grailed? Is this a thing where you want to clear up some space? Do you want to give the “kids” the opportunity to shop your closet? What are your motivations behind this?
I think it’s all of the above. I think that there’s a part of me that wishes that I could archive everything. Maybe someday a museum would find that interesting, but here’s the reality, that didn’t happen and it’s not happening. I can’t afford to do that, but I can recycle shit. There’s so much good stuff in the sale and it’s not that I want to get rid of it, though there are always things there are easier to part with than others. It’s a multifold problem. One is that I’ve created a monster, or rather you’ve created a monster. And I’m pointing at you, Lawrence, specifically. Fuck you very much.
Haha you’re welcome.
But it’s also great because I get bored quickly so I’m happy to cycle through new stuff. And, so, yes, if I can give back in any way that’s great. There are some people in my life who benefit greatly from me always getting rid of things, which is great because people did that for me. So, sure, if I can pass something along and somebody else can get some utility out of it, amazing. I do recognize that I have access and I get things, but 95% of what I’m selling on Grailed I paid for.
This is your stuff that you bought at one point because you love it.
Right. So, yes, I think if somebody is interested in this stuff, and we’ll see, but maybe this will give me intel for something down the road that I can do in the future. This will be a really interesting experiment to do. I’m hoping it’s good for Grailed and I’m hoping it’s good for me.
And we appreciate that.
I think what Grailed is doing is cool. I don’t think clothes are precious.
Clothes are to be worn.
Like if you have silverware, you should use it. Polish it, but use it.
Collecting this stuff is fine, but at a certain point it’s like, what is this stuff for? What is the purpose? And for clothes that purpose is to be worn.
That’s right. I get that they’re beautiful objects and, yes, it would be amazing to have a collection of things, but for me, clothes and shoes are to be worn. I can understand how some of these sneaker guys don’t wear their shoes. Like, what’s the point? But, I get it and it’s like playing the futures market and if kids can make money doing that, awesome. But I do think something like this sale pays it forward a little bit and it also allows me to keep indulging because I still want to be a good customer.
Speaking of this idea of paying it forward and all the “kids” or fans who will get to shop this sale, how do you feel about your image and “fame?” Is it still weird for you? Have you embraced it more? With some perspective now, how do you feel about all that?
Look, first and foremost, and it was true seven years ago and it is true today, number one I’m flattered.
It doesn’t get old for you?
It doesn’t. I mean, it’s flattering. Now, is it annoying? Absolutely. Sometimes. And it’s more that I feel for the people around me. So, like, if I’m with my friends. This is my job so I can’t complain about it. But sometimes my friends get roped into it by a photographer or whatever and it’s intrusive. If we get interrupted I feel bad for my friends or people around me. If I’m just talking with someone for work it tends to happen a lot. I’ve learned how to deal with it I guess. At the same time, it’s really no skin off my nose to do that kind of stuff, so, again, it’s very flattering.
It can be a little strange I would imagine.
It is. It’s weird.
I think you’ve done a good job, and I’ve always felt this way about you as long as I’ve known you, that you do a good job balancing your innate humility with realizing there is money to be made just by being you. I think you do a good job of toeing that line without it becoming this super serious thing. You’ve always been someone who can laugh at themselves. Do you think about this balancing act or is that just you as a person?
Look, I’m hyperaware and, yes, I make my money now because of guys like you. Thank you very much by the way. It’s fucking unbelievable. I’m very grateful this is a way for me to finish out my third and final act. Still, I’m always the first one to take the piss out of myself. I don’t for one minute think that I’m anything other than who I am. There are models and young people who are very attractive and look way better than me in clothes. I’m not that person. I’m not doing anything fundamentally different than I’ve ever done, but am I aware of what might look better for a picture? Yes, very much so. And I want to feed the beast. I want to keep it going.
This might be a loaded question, but why do you think people are so interested in you? Do you think it’s how you wear your clothes? Do you think it’s your pedigree because you’ve had this amazing, successful career? What do you think your fans see in you if you had to speculate?
I still have no idea. I really have no idea. And it always amazes me when it’s, like, women fans or straight guys, just people that normally wouldn’t be into what I do. It’s hilarious. Again, it’s just super flattering. I guess it’s because I’m just a person.
It’s an accessibility thing?
Right, so they can ascribe normality, like I’m not a model.
Or an athlete or a rapper...
Just some regular guy. I would love to be able to read people’s minds because I’m sure that the overwhelming thing I’m sure they’re thinking is, “Wow, this guy is a fucking midget.” But again, I think that’s part of the appeal. I’m not genetically special. Like models are genetic freaks. That’s why they’re models. At the end of the day, I think that it’s because I’m just a guy. Kind of a guy. A kind of a guy haha.
In 2017, what is the business of being Nick Wooster? We don’t need to get into too many of the nuts and bolts, but do you do a lot of consulting? You use the term “free agent,” which I think is very apt. You’ve kind of branded that as your thing. How do you work with brands in the fashion space now?
I’m happy to work with anyone how they want to work with me, but because I’ve been a buyer, I can sort of advise on buying, retail, merchandising, putting a collection together. Then, design, so, like, designing a collection and bridging that gap to what’s commercially viable. And then, of course, I can do stuff like this for which I owe social media and the Internet.
You mentioned the term “third act” in reference to your career. Is there anything left that you’d still like to accomplish professionally?
What I’d like to do, that I’m making no steps towards actually doing by the way haha, is do things like buying and flipping houses or create some sort of environment—doing something outside of clothes. That would be the only thing I haven’t really done yet that I’m interested in.
Do you ever see yourself having your own retail space or store?
Here’s the thing, I’m more than happy to have my hand in retail if I thought for one minute that I could do what I know. I guess I would have already done it or would be doing it. The problem is, I don’t think retails exists the way I grew up with—opening up a store, buying collections and crossing your fingers hoping that it will sell. Even if you layer on an online component doing the same thing. I firmly believe in retail and the fact that commerce is going to happen and that great brands, stores, and entities will absolutely sell cool shit, I just think the way we’re doing it now is completely different. It might be event-based or it’s only for three days. It might go the way of how directors releases films or an author writes books where it’s, like, a designer does a collection and might not do another until longer down the road. So this idea of where you walk into a store and it’s always the same is somewhat outdated. It could be a unique experience for whoever walks in. Or maybe it’s like a conveyor belt or a stage where it’s constantly changing.
So something that’s not completely confined to the seasonal model we have where a store might look the same for six months at a time as far as the stock or floor is concerned?
Well, I think it’s gotta at least last a season or at least a portion of a season. I think Dover Street is already showing us that they can change their ideas, where, sure, it’s kind of the same, but there’s always a new reason to go. And I love how they’re doing the sort of drop model, where there is an anticipation for new things that are releasing. There’s always a reason to go see that store. I don’t necessarily see that from older department stores.
So, aside from DSM, what are some of your other favorite stores in New York City?
One of my favorite stores in New York is Mr. Porter haha. And I say that because I just bought something from them yesterday. I fucking ordered some stuff and it came right to me in the middle of a blizzard. I fucking love that. That’s the best store in New York. I also love Idol in Brooklyn, If and Nepenthes.
For anyone who is a fan of yours and reading this interview and shopping your closet, do you have any career advice for them assuming they follow you because they’d ultimately like to do something similar to what you do for a living?
Work in a store. Nobody wants to hear that, but the only way to work in fashion is to work in fashion. So if that’s the way you’re going to get a job you should do that. I also think that you could work in the warehouse at Amazon or a Gucci Group fulfillment center. There’s any number of ways, like being a messenger or delivery person. There are ways to be tangentially related and get your foot in the door. Just be around it however you can immerse yourself.
Do you think that this new generation is maybe too focused on social media and the idea of building their personal brand to see that?
I mean, if you’re really cute or really funny you can do that. But that’s always been true. That’s just how life works. Being super attractive or super funny can take you far. There’s also this idea that always makes me cringe and laugh to myself: “I just got into fashion.” Well, okay. I know it’s something you’ve gotten into, but is it like getting on a bus or a train? I can only speak for myself, but I just know that I’ve always been in love with clothes. It’s like left-handedness. It’s just one of those things that’s part of you.
I’ve always felt that way about taste, personally. Certain people have great taste and certain people necessarily don’t.
Yeah, that would be another and maybe most important thing. I’ve hired plenty of people who were cute, but they’ve got to have good taste. And what’ good taste? It doesn’t mean who’s spent the most money or even necessarily mean you’re the most stylish, but chances are if you have good taste you're going to be stylish. I’ve always found that people with the best taste actually wear a uniform. I’m not one of those people. Naturally, I don’t think I have the best taste, maybe okay taste. But I know for a fact the people who have taught me the most, the common denominator for all of them, is that they all wear a uniform of iconic things. There’s a lot to be said for that. It always tends to be pared down and simple. Like, the best of a certain kind of shoe. Maybe it’s Common Projects. Or a Margiela sweater. A white shirt from Charvet. People who can boil it down to the essence of that, I have a special kind of respect for.
Is that respect born out of the fact that you find it hard to dress that way yourself?
I find it so difficult to do. I’ve tried. The problem is this, I’m a maximalist. Actually, I like to say that I’m a maximalist minimalist. I can dress simply, like I’m just in black and white today, but there are 5,000 other options behind that. That’s why I say you can drive a Prius when you have an Aston Martin in the driveway. I worked for this guy with a car collection, but he drove a Prius. I could do a uniform, but only because I would know I had a ton of options behind it.
To wrap up, what brands or people or products get you super excited these days and make you feel good about the future of men’s fashion?
It’s really simple, it’s The Soloist, it’s Nike, it’s Elena Dawson, it’s Comme des Garcons, and everything in the world of Comme des Garcons, and it’s Peaky Blinders, Taboo and Victoria. I love that too.