Slouched on a couch outside of the Sarkies Suite of Raffles Hotel, Richard Nicoll was visibly tired. And understandably so, given his “whistle-stop tour” and having just flown in from Hong Kong the day before. But the newly-appointed creative director for British fashion brand, Jack Wills, chatted excitedly about his sophomore collection for the brand and his decision to take a break from his eponymous label.
How did this partnership with Jack Wills come about?
I was approached by Jack Wills to be creative director about a year ago. And I was kind of interested in the brand because I thought it had a lot of potential, which it does. I liked the fact that it sat outside of fashion and it was more about lifestyle and about authentic heritage pieces but with a youthful spirit. I thought it would be a good match to my own label because it wouldn’t compete, in a way? But yeah, I was interested because it was for a younger demographic, at a lower price point but still with a high quality and sort of with an integrity that I appreciated.
It was a year ago so was there any pressure that you felt?
Of course I feel pressured but I didn’t know what people were expecting. But for me, it’s about evolving the brand and elevating it. I’m not trying to change the brand at all. I’m just trying to make it better and stronger but within it’s own strong DNA.
What are some of the things in Jack Wills that you try not to change?
I just don’t touch the DNA, which is kind of a British irreverence – youthful optimism and charming authenticity. All of the pieces that sell, I very much embrace and I want to make them bigger and better really.
How has it been different, designing for Jack Wills as compared to your own label?
Well, it’s completely different. I creative direct so I’m less hands on at Jack Wills. I deliver the concept for the season and then I direct my design team of 20 designers. And also, I’m involved with the marketing and campaign imagery so it’s a much broader role than what I’m kind of used to, I suppose. The collections are more frequent and larger and also there are a lot of non-clothing items like accessories, gifting and home. It’s a much more varied role.
I read somewhere that you’ve already mapped out up to 6 collections for Jack Wills. Is that true?
I’ve done 8, I think. The creative group works a year in advance so I’ve just started autumn 2016 whereas autumn 2015 isn’t anywhere near being delivered. So you’ve got summer in store now and I’ve already finished designing for summer next year. It’s quite different to the way I’m used to.
Is it because it’s not a directional brand?
It’s more logistical than to do with that. The production takes longer because the volume is bigger and there are other elements to it. But you’re right, I think because it’s less trendy it means that it’s fine for it to be a year in advance. Because for me, it should just be about strengthening the codes of Jack Wills as oppose to anything else.
What are some of your favourite pieces in the collection?
I like the knitwear and the shirting pieces. And then, I like the seersucker suit that’s on the cover here (begins to flip through the summer 2015 lookbook). Yeah, there’s quite a lot that I like. I mean, it’s easy this collection – easy to wear.
You have been busy in the past with different collaborations (Fred Perry, Topshop, Tropicana etc.). Was it a conscious decision to want to be creative in as many different outlets as possible?
Yeah. I mean, I think I find that really interesting. I think I get bored really easily and also because my works are quite classification-driven; it’s like a wardrobe. My collection was always about creating a wardrobe as oppose to one specific category. So I think it makes me more versatile as a designer.
But are you afraid that people might think that you don’t have a strong identity as a designer on your own by taking all these small projects?
They might do but I feel like it’s more that I have the ability to do lots of things. I think I have a strong personal identity but I kind of understand how to design other styles as well.
You pulled your label out of the London shows for fall/winter 2015. Do you feel like it was something you had to do to or do you regret it now?
No, I don’t regret it. I’m actually really happy that I did! Basically, the last year was very stressful and the sales weren’t going as well as I’d hoped. And I did a spring/summer 2015 collection that I was really happy with. So I felt that it was kind of the right moment to put it on hold and focus on Jack Wills for a little while and see what happens. I’m sure I’ll get back to it but I’m just taking a few seasons out.
Video courtesy of Fashion Channel Milano
Jack Wills is available at its Raffles City boutique, 01-19.