As we continue to explore what makes us who we are, this week we dig into the fundamental relationship between fathers and sons with Bernard and Nick Fouquet.
Bernard is a world-renowned model, pilot, entrepreneur and all-round bon vivant. Nick is a famed milliner and artisan — hat maker to stars including Pharrell Williams, David Beckham and Justin Bieber. And together they are dad and son, friends, and inspirations to one another through the highs and lows of their fascinating, creative lives.
Here the pair talk with Mr Feelgood co-founder John Pearson, a friend and modeling peer of Bernard’s for 20 years, with Nick speaking from his Los Angeles, California, studio and Bernard in his home outside Paris in his native France.
Their candid insight into the evolution of their relationship has truths that fathers and sons everywhere can relate to, as we try to put our best foot forward in one of the most important, ever-changing partnerships in our lives.
What are the best qualities you think you have learned from one another?
Nick: For the profession I am in, growing up with my father has been an inspiration stylistically. So for what I do, I’ve always looked towards my father for some of his aesthetic. Other things that I’ve learned from my dad is his sense of charisma, and his sociability in situations. Bernard makes you just feel comfortable. If you’re in a setting with five, six people, I mean, my dad is a chameleon he can hang out with anybody. Whether it’s the Prince of Spain to the guy that’s just sat on the boardwalk. He’s a really fun guy and a funny guy to be around. He’s got such a big heart and he’s a great person to sit down and talk to. And my father and I talk maybe five times a week, if not more. So he’s been somebody I can talk to about my life issues, about personal, about business, and he’s always there. He’s always been there to pick up the phone and be accountable.
Bernard: Well, I learned a lot of things from my son. First of all, we have a great relationship. We can talk through everything together. And I love the way he comes to me and asks me for advice, but most of the time I don’t give advice to him, I suggest things much more than give advice. I suggest that you should do this or that, but I hate to control him. I love Nick’s integrity. I love his style. He’s very artistic, a very charismatic guy. He’s sometimes a little too much in his head, but he’s a great guy. And I think he’s a great looking kid. That’s the cherry on the cake really. And he’s my only boy, I have five girls and Nick!
Where do you differ the most do you think?
Bernard: I probably make more faster decisions than Nick. Nick is going to think 25 times before deciding, but when he decides it’s for good, but he’s asking himself so many questions. Sometimes I tell him it’s totally unnecessary, but at the same time we are really similar.
Bernard: Well, no, no, no. Let me just finish what I want to say. The thing is, I love talking with Nick because the similarity we have in terms of private stuff, all the anxiety we can have, and sometimes thinking too much, not being sure of what we are doing, and if what we are doing is good or not good. We are very alike on that level.
Nick: I think we’re different in a lot of ways. I’m a little bit more introverted. He’s definitely more extroverted in my eyes.
Bernard: Nick is very private. You have to know him very well to have Nick tell you things he has deep inside. And me, I am totally different because I have 25 years sobriety, where I really share my life with no problem, to try to help other people, in a way. I give my experience pretty easily, to try to help others. I am an open book. If I am angry, you can see it. If I am happy, you can see it. Nick is more neutral. Nick can have a lot of things in his head, but if you are with him, you won’t know.
Is there anything you can’t or don’t talk about with each other?
Bernard: Well, we don’t talk really about, really private stuff. For me, it’s totally different. I can tell Nick certain things, and Nick will never tell me the same because, maybe, it can be awkward for him.
Nick: It’s not true. I tell you everything. I don’t agree with that.
Bernard: But we don’t talk about … we are not very graphic. I said, though, I have done this, I’ve done that.
Nick: Ok yes. You’re too graphic, I don’t need to know!
Nick, how did your dad’s sobriety effect his role as a father before and afterwards?
Nick: I mean, tremendously. The father I knew growing up and the relationship that we have today is completely different, and I think that’s a lot to do with sobriety. My father and I, funnily enough, just had this conversation yesterday, on the point of sobriety, as we have both been following a spiritual and sober path for many years. I haven’t drunk in nine years. I think the tipping point was when I looked at my dad, there’s a pre-Bernard when drinking, and then a post-Bernard which I prefer tenfold. And I think that through the years, watching him dealing with sobriety, he has become the person that he is today, and the father that I’ve always wanted. So it’s great to see the transformation and the change. And I think it’s definitely, without a doubt, brought us closer over the years. I think my dad could attest to it, our relationship grew stronger as we grew older rather than when I was younger. I think in our family, and I think in most families, alcohol is just not a great recipe in general. And for me, it wasn’t really right for my blood type, I definitely have done a lot of research in the field of drinking and drugs. I felt it a false sense of reality, and for me I think being sober is the most alive one can be. I feel like I want to feel everything that I can today, and alcohol really deters and dilutes that, that beautiful sense of reality. And honestly I don’t really enjoy the taste of it. So, it was fine.
Bernard: The drinking problem I used to have, I was a very late bloomer, because I really started to drink when I was 27, 28. Before then, I was not really drinking at all. I was not even barely smoking pot, which I never liked very much anyway. But at the age of 28, I really started to drink. I started to do drugs and stuff like that. And I did it until the age of 43, and I discovered one day that it was not for me and I got sober. I can see the benefit of it because, as you know, I went through a very difficult time, which is still very difficult. My wife passed away almost two years ago (to cancer). And sometimes I say to myself, ‘My God, I am so happy I did not drink.’ Because during that time, if I was still a drinker, it would have been a disaster, because when you drink you are not a normal person, you are always living on your nerves. And I had to get up in the morning, I had to face the problem. I faced the problem.
How do you both cope with the stresses in your life, how do you find peace?
Nick: This is a really interesting topic, it’s something I discuss with my dad quite often. Sobriety and AA has been a huge tentpole in my life. And I’m so grateful for this program that has really given me a spiritual sort of guidance in life. But today, and I don’t know if it’s because of Zoom or if things have changed, but I feel like I’ve found other avenues and other ways to supplement, enhance that spiritual part of me which AA has given to me, so I’m not as proactive as I used to be. I think now, I’ve found a direction. Personally, I have learned over several years now, various practices that I do daily. I will do my 20 minute meditation that I’m pretty religious about, and it’s been an amazing tool for me. Also, I write two pages every day. I write a little poetry, I do a little drawing, I read a couple of different books. I stretch and I do this every day. And that gets me starting my day. That’s extremely helpful, especially during these wacky, crazy times. But one of the most important things that I do is, something that I found young in life, was surfing. It’s something that changes my positive mental attitude throughout the day. I mean so much so, that when I walk into my office, my team knows immediately if I surfed or not, just by my energy and how I walk, how I talk, and how I feel. The ocean to me is such a source of rejuvenation, of just peace and calm.
Bernard: It’s a little bit more complicated for me, because when I used to go to AA, I used to pray a lot, I used to have that spiritual life, much more efficient than it is today. Because, to be honest with you, after what happened to me, I lost faith in God. During the time my wife was sick, I was praying at least three times a day. It was the only thing I could really do for myself because I never wanted to be too far away from home, and my way to try to get out was by trusting God. When she left us, I lost total faith in God. And now, I am trying to get back to it. But to be really honest, I am having a really hard time. The thing I do a few times a week, I go to the beach and I take a long hike on the beach, because water really makes me feel good, and water is something that cleanses me, which is really good.
Bernard, how do you deal with aging?
Bernard: Well, the thing is about aging is I don’t have a choice. Every day is one more day, or it’s one day less anyway. But I don’t have a problem with aging, because I am surrounded by such a bunch of young people, my kids really. And I really enjoy being with them. I know their friends and when I am with them, I don’t even think about my age. I barely think about my age to be honest. I don’t run really anymore because it’s really hard on your body, but I do take long hikes. I can do 10, 12 kilometers — really fast, very, very fast!
The other thing we should mention is that Nick, you’ve got five sisters, where are you in the pecking order?
Nick: There’s two younger, three older. So I’m more or less the middle, and grew up with pretty much all of them, all under the same household. And so it was quite interesting! I think I feel really comfortable around girls and (female) friends. Although I don’t think I’ll ever understand women, even after growing up with five sisters, and being very close to all of them, I think it’s just like an enigma! I embrace and I love girls, I love women, and for who they are. And they’ve been so nurturing and helpful for me. I love my sisters so much, and I don’t know any other way. I never had a brother, so I’m super grateful for that feminine energy because it’s something that’s super important for me, and to create an energy too.
In two or three sentences, what is your philosophy on life?
Nick: I mean that’s a pretty loaded question, that I absolutely love! I think I pontificate on this quite often, but in a lot of ways I wish I would practice the principles that I think. But to answer your question, I think we have this one life and we’re blessed, and it’s to live it to the fullest and really try to be present. I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of heaven and hell. And sometimes I’m like, what if we are already in heaven? And why don’t we embrace that, and just stop thinking that we’re going to pass away and go to a better place, this place ain’t too bad. Why don’t I just appreciate it and travel, and have fun with my friends. I think that’s the mantra I’ve been sort of telling myself, is to really just enjoy life and have fun — because that is how I want to live my life. And sure, I fall into fear and worry and anxiety and all those things, but I know that we’ve only got one life. So, it’s not too bad. Yeah. So you enjoy it.
Bernard: I just would like to try more to enjoy the present. And I have actually a difficult time doing it, but this is one of my goals, to live one day after the other instead of making plans for the future, which never happens the way you imagine. But I mean, being happy, happiness is a very large story, so to just try to live in the present moment. We are social animals and I love to be surrounded by people. I love exchanges with people. I talk with Nick a lot about it. He says, ‘Dad, you should live in the present moment instead of thinking about the future.’ And that’s funny, because sometimes Nick gives me advice just like he is my dad. I think I am always searching in life and I love the journey. And sometime it’s hard, sometime it’s great, sometime you have a lot of joy, sometime you have more pain. But just the journey is great because you learn … I try to learn something everyday, that’s what I do.
How would you like to be remembered?
Bernard: I hope I will be remembered as being a very nice guy, a faithful person in friendship, but mostly I would love to be remembered by my kids who can say, ‘Dad was a great father.’ That’s really all I can wish for … the rest of the world, who cares? Everybody has an opinion about you. That doesn’t really matter now. I am not stuck at the point where I would like to be remembered as a star or great artiste, or whatever. No, just to be remembered as a good person, who always tried his best.
Nick: What comes to mind is that I would really like to be remembered as someone passionate about his craft, his work, and what he could contribute creatively that might’ve helped the industry that he was in. And of course as a good person, a stand-up guy or someone that people love hanging around and he was fun, but professional. But I’d love to be remembered for my work. I think that, that would be cool.
And Nick, are you wanting to be a father yourself?
Nick: Yes, absolutely. One day. 100%. I just feel that as a 37-year-old male, I just don’t really feel right now is my time. I already have a baby, which is my work, and I’m seeing it grow, and I’m nurturing it. And I’m not trying to put too much emphasis on my career and my work being the most important thing of my life, but right now I have such an interesting career and path going, I want to see it through without any distraction or responsibility. And that might sound selfish, but realistically I think it’s me just wanting to dive in deeper into my craft. But do I want to have a child? Yeah, absolutely I would love to have a child.
Is there a question that you’ve always wanted to be asked but you haven’t been asked?
Nick: It’s funny because as you were asking that question, the first thing that came to my mind is the question no one’s really asked me whether it’s in an interview, or rarely, but it’s, ‘Are you happy?’ And I know that’s a really loaded question. Yes, I am happy. I think sometimes if I think too much about if I am happy or not, then I’m probably not. I think happiness can flow and shift. But today, yes. I mean given the circumstances going on with COVID in the world, and the politics and the landscape of things, I think it’s a scary time and sometimes I might be more worried. But I think internally, intrinsically, I am a happy person. A little sad for the world, but I am happy.
Bernard: I would love people to ask me, ‘How do you feel? How do you feel everyday in your life?’ And, if I look at the big picture, I’m pretty blessed. I remember one thing a long, long time ago, I was spending Christmas in the Bahamas, and I was getting out of a little boat and I met an old guy who looked at me with an amazing face and he said, ‘Hey buddy, you are blessed.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, big guy, maybe I give that image out.’ At the time I didn’t know what that meant really. But thinking of it now, years after, I think I am blessed.