Location: The Hospital Club, Covent Garden, London
We drank: Pots of English breakfast tea
The number of times Nik ran his hands through his luxurious mane: infinity
I can clearly remember the first time that I met Nik Thakkar. We were at Somerset House, at a party thrown by Esquire and Jay Best (The Arcadia) introduced us. She took his outstretched hand and pulled him out of the crowd. He wore an infectious smile and a long black mens silk pyjamas, it was at this very moment that I knew that Nik would be extraordinary.
On the day of the interview, Nik and I agreed to meet at The Hospital Club, a members club for those in the creative industry. On that morning, London had endured one of its many infamous torrential rainfalls. As I entered the Hospital Club, my ballet pumps were so drenched that they emitted an audible squelch with every step I took. I asked the receptionist whether Nik had arrived and her eyes lit up at the sound of his name. I would later discover that this would happen a number of times throughout our interview, Nik has that kind of indescribable effect on people.
I was led to Nik, who was lounging in an oversized arm chair. He was dressed head-to-toe in his signature black attire and resembled a rock star or pop icon rather than anything else. He greeted me warmly, running his hands through his luxurious raven mane that was as wet as my shoes, courtesy of the downpour we had both endured. Nik thoughtfully suggested that our current location would not be ideal for our interview as the floor was bustling with creatives. He immediately called an incredibly kind waiter, who immediately found us an empty room on the top floor by an enchanting roof terrace.
It is fundamental to mention that Nik is not like many people you have encountered before. He has the whole package; devilishly handsome, with an electric presence and wicked sense of humour, that enables him to connect with everyone he meets. However, Nik’s most impressive traits are his ironclad work ethic and drive to be the best he can be without compromise.
Nik Thakkar wears many hats, his line of work is undeniably impressive yet not easy to define. He is a menswear designer, who runs his own pop culture blog called ‘Karl is My Unkle’ and has also worked alongside some of the most influential powerhouses in the world on branded content projects. In recent years, Nik has worked with LMVH, Harrods and Diet Coke on all three of their major European partnerships; including Marc Jacobs, Jean Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld. He is also the face of the new Jean Paul Gaultier digital campaign which will be unveiled at the end of this month.
Nik pondered: “I have spent the last six years working at double speed, I feel like I have done twelve years worth of work in six years. Has it paid off? Yes. Has it paid off as much as I would like it to? No.”
Although Nik may not be completely happy with his lot, his hard work is definitely paying off. This year, Nik collaborated with ethical womenswear designer Ada to create Ada+Nik, a dark luxury menswear collection.
Speaking of the first time he met Ada, Nik said: “We met four years ago during Paris fashion week. We were at dinner one night and I asked her when she was going to venture into menswear. She looked at me dead in the eye, and said that she would only do it if I did it with her.”
He added: “So that’s historically how Ada+Nik came about. After that dinner, I sent her my vision for what it would be as a brand. It had been embedded in me for so long, I was ready to go.”
Nik’s experience working with other brands was extremely beneficial when he began to create his own brand. He said: “I have done so many creative projects with other brands before, that doing it for myself is something that feels almost more natural and easier.”
Nik described Ada as his ‘creative soulmate’, and said that their connection enables them to work well together to produce a collection of the highest-quality.
He said: “We have a very strong mutual understanding. We respect each other’s individual strengths but when it comes to the bigger picture, we’re very aligned. So when it came to designing this collection, we didn’t fight over anything. It was a very seamless process because it felt like we were one brain working for the same vision and same cause.”
Ada’s ethical attitude to fashion was a fundamental factor that Nik wanted to incorporate in Ada+Nik.
He said: “This year we have heard so many stories about collapsing factories in Cambodia and child labor in H&M’s factories in Bangladesh. There are so many deaths and so much destruction, because fashion brands are creating products in an unsustainable way.”
He added: “I personally would never be a part of that. In 2013 we have the opportunity to lead the way and do something more pioneering which is why we are producing everything in the UK, our carbon footprint is minimal. Everything in our studio is environmentally friendly, from washing up liquid to sustainable light bulbs.”
In a bid to be more ethical, Ada+Nik use vegtan leather and recycled Burberry Prorsum.
He said: “Ada and I have created a beautiful menswear collection that is awesome but also happens to be ethical. I don’t want the focus to just be on it being ethical, this is 2013 there is no excuse not to be ethically conscious.”
Ada and Nik are a British design duo who both hail from London, this plays a fundamental role in the history behind the collection.
Nik said: “I think the collection is actually a fusion between South West and East London, like Chelsea and Dalston. It resonates with quite a wide character base.”
He added: “The more formal side of the collection can be worn as dress shirts with a tuxedo, a suit or a blazer. Then it has an open back so you can take the jacket off and it’s almost business by day, party at night if you have that transition during your work day.”
There are also heavier leather pieces in the collection, which are definitely more reminiscent of East London.
Nik stated: “The collection is inspired by the historical richness of Greco-Roman times, romantically entwined with the British Punk rock era of the 1970s.”
Nik has a clear vision of the Ada+Nik man. The man who wears Ada+Nik does not take his decisions lightly when it comes to fashion.
Nik said: “He is very informed, he knows what he’s wearing and why he’s wearing it. He is a creative soul but does not have to work in the creative industry. He could be a banker, a lawyer or an accountant but he has a creative spirit and he understands luxury.”
He added: “The Ada+Nik man is the Jared Letos and James Francos’ of this world. Men that have a very strong creative side and they look after themselves. They go to the gym, they eat well, they enjoy life but they definitely have their vices.”
I informed Nik that there is a metaphorical elephant in the room and I must disclose it. I am wary of doing so as people don’t tend to like being compared to others, no matter how flattering the comparison is. I told him that he reminded me of a British Marc Jacobs.
His face immediately lit up, he leant towards me and said: “I get compared to him all the time, probably because I wear kilts and dresses. It is a huge compliment and an honour, we could be brothers or lovers or whatever he wanted to be.”
Nik has a roguish and incredibly dark sense of humour. Throughout the interview we regularly touched upon random topics but the most interesting by far was a conversation we had about life and death.
Nik suddenly sat bolt upright, a smile played on his lips. He said: “Hold on, what if I get hit by a bus tomorrow? Who will be the art director of my funeral, I must plan this immediately. I want everyone to wear black and I want people fucking crying. I am going to find a track that evokes ridiculous levels of emotion, like a string quartet playing in the ear of the guests until they crack.”
He added: “If I died and never tweeted again,would people care? Would they wonder where I was? I do wonder whether it would leave a void in people’s lives but in reality, people are fickle they would probably get over it pretty quickly.”
In an audible battle with himself, Nik said that he does not like to dwell on the negative.
He said: “I know this sounds surprising taking into account the topic of conversation, but I don’t usually have time for depressing shit. Well, when I am alone I love listening to dark pop and watching film noir. I thrive off of a dark aesthetic but it doesn’t make me a dark person, I am not a dark soul. When I am with people, I always want them to be happy and have fun with me.”
With a mischievous twinkle in his eye, he leant forward and declared: “Fuck it! No matter what happens, in the end I’ll probably die unhappy. I will probably feel like I haven’t achieved enough, I am completely resigned to that.”
Ten Questions We Ask Everyone
1. What did you want to be when you were younger?
I never really knew what I wanted to be. I went to a Christian private school where they have very traditional expectations of their students; you are trained essentially to become a lawyer, banker or doctor. So when I was younger, it felt as though my options were incredibly limited and creativity was never really encouraged.
To an extent, I can understand the pressure to join those lucrative professions but it was never for me. I ended up doing a law degree because I did not know what the fuck I wanted to do. I am so tired of what that level of education stands for, it is essentially saying that you are good if you can memorise things and regurgitate them. In the end I was awesome at it, I got straight A’s at A-level and a 2:1 in my law degree but what are we celebrating here, having a good memory?
2. If you could offer advice to your twelve-year-old self, what would it be?
I would tell myself not to bother going to university but start working at the age of 18. I suppose it is the butterfly effect, you never know where I would have ended up had I not gone to university. I would also have advised myself not to turn my back on the piano and experiment more because my twelve-year-old self was rather boring.
3. You have 24 hours with no travel restrictions, how would you spend it?
I would breakfast on the beach in the Seychelles, eating nothing but fresh exotic fruit. I would then have a lush spa experience and lunch at The Smile in New York with some great friends. I would also shop a lot; the best designer is a heavy consumer. I would hit up all of the best global stores from boutiques in Tokyo to Colette in Paris. I would buy lots of lovely clothes and then I would go out somewhere awesome in Los Angeles and wear them all. Finally I would go back to Japan, eat sushi and do karaoke.
4. What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you this year?
Earlier this year my television show aired; that was very exciting. My show aired on a global television channel but not in the UK, so I got fan mail from Uganda and China. I was also offered the opportunity to present the Oscars for Sky News which was really exciting too. I must say that the most exciting by far was launching Ada+Nik, that was like giving birth to a child, a beautiful black child.
5. The film you can watch over and over yet never tire of?
The Fountain by Darren Aronofsky. I can come across as really light-hearted and superficial but I am actually a really deep thinker. I tend to like really depressing cinema and only really go to see independent films.
6. The song that always makes you emotional?
King’s Crossing by Elliot Smith, I cannot listen to it without bursting into tears.
7. If you could spend an entire day with anyone uninterrupted, who would it be?
Definitely James Franco. His art, intelligence and sex appeal are so attractive. You ideally want someone smart, both EQ and IQ, that you have sexual chemistry with. It is really difficult to find someone who has all of those qualities but James Franco has them all.
8. It is Friday night at midnight, where are you most likely to be?
I never voluntarily go out on the weekend unless it is someone’s birthday, so I am most likely to be found at home watching a film and binge eating.
9. What is your biggest vice?
Probably eating too much pizza and getting naked. If you take one look at my Instagram, you will see that I am obsessed with getting naked.
10. How would you like to be remembered?
I am a very altruistic person and I would love to be remembered like that.
Follow Nik on Twitter: @NikThakkar
Follow Karl is My Unkle on Twitter: @karlismyunkle
Read Karl is My Unkle: www.karlismyunkle.com
Shop Ada + Nik: www.adaxnik.com
David Paul Vail
Make-up and Grooming
Natasha using Mac