Between shooting Jean Paul Gaultier's A/W 2013 online menswear campaign, managing his own blog (www.karlismyunkle.com), working for Nephew London as well as being one half of menswear design duo Ada + Nik, it is a wonder that Nik Thakkar continues both to work on his own film script and, thankfully, take part in this interview. Offering up his thoughts and opinions on working with Jean Paul Gaultier, the branding for Ada + Nik and the place of male models in the industry, Thakkar's ambition and business sense is clear for all to see.
Hi Nik! OK, first question - you were recently chosen as the face of Jean Paul Gaultier's A/W 2013 campaign (see the video here). How did you find the experience?
I don’t think the word ‘incredible’ quite sums it up! I was first approached about taking part in the campaign in April and was completely honoured. I had been to see the show in Paris in January and the collection was one of my favourites - lots of heritage pieces, lots of leather; it was signature Gaultier, so when I was asked it really was a no-brainer. The shoot itself was a brilliant concept too – the film was shot in two halves, the first of which was recorded at Gaultier’s HQ in Paris (you can even see the Karlie Kloss campaign on the walls!) and the second was recorded completely in front of a green screen.
Rick Owens recently made a statement of sorts about the casting of models in his S/S 2014 runway presentation – what were your thoughts on the show?
Personally, I love when designers work with personalities (as opposed to just traditional models) as it gives a real feeling of collaboration, so in that sense the Rick Owens show made complete sense. Rick has always been the kind of guy that goes against the grain and he is also extremely respected in the fashion industry, so it really did take somebody like him to make such radical casting choices as he has the industry clout to pull it off. It was quite unique – it is clear that casting choices were made for publicity but I like that he raised the question of redefining beauty. If anybody can make that kind of statement and pull it off, it’s Rick Owens!
It’s difficult; when you cast a show you have to bear in mind that you want to make a creative statement, but you also need to remember that you’re essentially selling a product, so although Rick’s show was incredible it’s perhaps not something that every designer would be able to do as everybody designs for different clientele and has a specific profile in mind when casting for a show. For example, with the latest Ada + Nik collection, we designed around a specific kind of man – 6’2”, very muscular and naturally casting choices have to reflect that, but you do have to adapt the model under different circumstances, like when you’re fitting a celebrity for a magazine cover.
You have recently been one of the most vocal participants in the debate on the underpayment of male models. Do you think it’s a gap that can ever be bridged?
Yes, it is a gap that can be bridged and it’s a gap that we can prove is already being bridged. Men are becoming more and more interested in fashion and, as a result, the menswear industry is growing and salaries (and profiles) are growing alongside it.
You are a man of many disciplines and often describe yourself as a ‘creative’ – for example, you’re currently working on a film script. Is there anything that you haven’t yet tried but would like to?
Film-making is definitely something that I will move into – I’m in the early stages of writing a film script, a sort of British redux of a François Truffaut film). It feels like a natural progression – my brother Oz Thakkar is a successful filmmaker and I already have a great deal of creative control in terms of the fashion films that we make for the Ada + Nik campaigns. I have been making films from a commercial brand standpoint for some time now; it’s just a case of taking the skillset that I already possess and exposing it to a wider demographic.
How important is film-making to you in terms of promoting your collection?
Film-making is becoming more and more important within industry in general - film-making is the best way to really get into the mind of a consumer and therefore it’s the best way to sell a product. For this reason, I think it’s a medium that is becoming more integral to every industry, whether it be a 2-hour blockbuster or a 15-second Instagram video, film resonates with an audience more than a still image.
You recently collaborated with Ada Zanditon to create your own brand, ‘Ada+ Nik’. Your debut collection was based on a ‘Graeco-Roman Punk’ aesthetic - will you be continuing this aesthetic in your next collection together?
Definitely – as a term it describes the roots of our aesthetic so this will still be present in the next collection. Naturally the aesthetic has evolved – for example there has been an evolution into a more Bahaus masculine aesthetic, and because it’s an Autumn/Winter collection there will be less flesh on display than last time, naturally. However the collection itself will be just as dark as the last and we will be continuing to explore and use materials that are both innovative and sustainable. We will actually be shooting the campaign film for the collection in 6 weeks’ time – the overarching theme at the moment seems to be ‘Warrior Prince meets Bahaus Masculinity’ but we’re still in the process of locking down the final details. We will also be working with a big collaborator on the film, which is very exciting!
Finally, you have achieved success in various fields of the fashion arena. What advice would you give to somebody that is just starting out?
The one piece of advice that I would give to anyone is that you have to choose your field, and then visualise yourself in a CEO position. Anybody that has the ambition to reach that CEO position has to remember that there needs to be a balance between creativity and business sense. Marc Jacobs is maybe the best example – Marc Jacobs Intl. has achieved enormous success, but that’s because he has always had a business partner in Robert Duffy, whereas there are so many other talented designers that have never really cracked the mainstream because they lack business sense. Finally, always remember that you are your best ambassador. Social media has provided a platform for self-promotion, so use it.