Calvert Avenue was a natural home for the first Studio Nicholson HQ. A quietly confident east London address within the Boundary estate, its tree-lined streets and strong architectural history give it a certain, impressive air. Nick Wakeman founded the brand in 2010, and when we first met in 2012, the capital was busy playing host to the Olympics. There was a waft of winning spirit in the air when we sat down to scribble thoughts about how the brand’s values should be communicated. After some serious spitballing and a few air punches, the Modular Wardrobe was born. Nick captained the design ship and I steered the words. Studio Nicholson was just beginning back then, but the aesthetic was already rounded and strong. It was time to tell the world.
10 Years (+2) of Studio Nicholson - At Rochelle Canteen
Fast forward to a balmy July day in 2022 and we’re arranging name cards on a long, refectory table at Rochelle Canteen. It was time to celebrate 10 years in business - albeit 2 years late thanks to the pandemic. Nick is a very private person - not one to go searching out the limelight. As a founder and creative director, she keeps her voice under wraps and prefers to communicate with pictures instead.
As glassware was positioned and napkins folded, we talked about why marking the decade long milestone was an important event. With two standalone London stores positioned in Shoreditch and Soho, she’s grafted hard to get the brand to this point. A get-together with some friends and key folk from the industry seemed like the best way to make a bit of a fuss.
With guests seated and drinks poured, the volume of chatter round the table dimmed when serving platters of roast chicken and baked turbot were passed around. Braised fennel with chard and bowls of lemon potatoes were spooned onto plates as we all ate family style, under a clear blue sky. While the anniversary was belated, the atmosphere was anything but. We tucked in and caught up on each other's news, most of us sporting at least one item from our beloved modular wardrobes as an ode to Nick.
With the main course cleared and glasses refilled, the arrival of the summer pudding and jersey cream called for a toast. Like the best man at a wedding, I couldn’t help myself and stood up to congratulate Nick on ten years of doing things brilliantly. A woman who puts fabric and functionality first, her silhouettes have been widely imitated - but never surpassed. From that small studio a stone’s throw away from where we sat, Studio Nicholson has grown into an internationally recognised brand - with new stores on the horizon (watch this space).
Nobody makes trousers like she does. Up and down the table there were loyal wearers of Studio Nicholson who were only too happy to pause on dessert for a second to explain their thoughts on the brand’s success. Ashley Ogawa Clarke from Mr Porter said, “What makes Studio Nicholson stand out is definitely down to Nick Wakeman’s tyrannically good taste. Every detail – from the colour, to the shape, to the belt loops – gives the impression that they’ve been fastidiously worked on, which no doubt they have.”
I interrupted a conversation between Felix Petty, editor at i-D magazine and journalist Grace Cook to grill the pair on the magic of the Modular Wardrobe. Felix said, “I think there's beauty in its simplicity, it's not complicated but it’s always interesting. Everything feels very considered, detailed, loved.” Grace mentioned, “It also knows what it is and who it’s for and it doesn’t strive to be anything other than that. It’s not chasing demographics like a lot of brands are. It doesn’t need to shout the loudest to be seen, heard or appreciated and in this Instagram-centric climate that’s pretty refreshing.”
Charlie Monaghan from The Modern House made the point that, “Lots of brands sell you the idea of a modular wardrobe but that almost always translates to clothes that are generic and boring. Studio Nicholson creates really versatile, wearable clothing that's still cool, modern and somehow of the moment but timeless all at once – just like good modernist architecture and design. I live in Studio Nicholson trousers (I rotate 3 pairs). Nick told me that you should always get dressed by putting on trousers first and I've lived by that ever since.”
Founder of Paperboy magazine, David McKendrick happened upon the Calvert Avenue store on an east London stroll and never looked back. “I thought I’d struck gold - but clearly the opposite, because I left the store with a wallet that was a few hundred pounds lighter and a big smile on my face. My current favourite is the Foss Knit Vest, in Oatmeal. We shot it for the last issue of Paperboy. It was so effortlessly charming on the model and I thought: I have to have that. In my head it looks as elegant on me, as it did on him (even though I’m 25 years older and follically challenged!).”
There’s one thing that unites all wearers of Studio Nicholson - old and new - and that’s the ease of modular clothing. Silhouettes that are easily misunderstood on the hanger really come alive on the body. Try the stuff on and you’ll never go back to your old garb again. Sounds like a heavyweight statement, but it’s true. You’ll wish you’d done it sooner. Nick isn’t one to shout from the rooftops about her process - she’s too busy getting on with it.
After a long afternoon in the sunshine and coffee to finish, the gang started to peel off for the evening. I asked fashion editor (and long-time fan) Catherine Hayward for a few final words, “No bells, no whistles and no shouty graphics, Studio Nicholson has expertly navigated the choppy fashion landscape with a blueprint of thoughtful, functional, quiet clothing. Their ethos is design for living at its best.” Well. There you have it. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Here’s to the next decade.