When the weight of the Covid-19 pandemic became apparent around the world, with the corresponding moment of introspection and reflection it encouraged, fashion brands and houses that had previously churned out collection after collection, drop after drop and trend after trend scrambled to shift to a manufacturing retail model that responded to a consumer keen to shop with more responsibility and according to a slower pace. Consumers were keen to purchase pieces that subverted seasonal ‘It’ silhouettes and pioneered staying power; they wanted to invest in clothing that wouldn’t ever lose its wonder in their wardrobe.
But a clever cohort of brands have been operating with utilitarian, practical and timeless tenets since their inception, and leading the charge is Studio Nicholson, the London-based men’s and women’s brand founded in 2010 by Nick Wakeman. ‘I've been banging the same drum for years,’ she smiles. ‘No brainer clothes: functional, comfortable, easy.’
When the world went into lockdown in March 2020, and mills and garment factories in Italy, Portugal, Japan and the United Kingdom ground to a halt, Wakeman also used the time to reflect. ‘We had three months to re-evaluate and distill what we do,’ she says. ‘I was thinking, why did I start the brand originally? Are we still doing the same thing? What, now, do I not want to do? The time really affirmed my concept of a timeless modular wardrobe.’
Studio Nicholson: ‘functional, comfortable, easy’
For Pre-Fall 2021 womenswear, this concept translates into roomy A-line padded coats in organic stone; dove-grey unlined oversized blazers paired with bubble-shape skirts; black boxy leather shirts; and high-waist selvedge jeans, in deep indigo and optic white. For A/W 2021 menswear, khaki cotton twill pants have a voluminous silhouette; denim jackets riff on workwear with sizeable chest pockets; and relaxed shirts have a subtle cornflower stripe. Over the past 12 months, Wakeman has noted a stellar 60 per cent growth across Studio Nicholson’s menswear offering. ‘Denim is really winning at the moment,’ she says, a response perhaps to shoppers looking for transitional post-sweatpant silhouettes. ‘We also cannot sell enough of our trenchcoats.’
Wakeman was grateful that Studio Nicholson had a robust e-commerce platform as the world went into lockdown – ‘There were a lot of brands that didn't even have an online presence,’ she says – but she also felt the pull of a bricks-and-mortar shopping experience. ‘For a brand like ours, fabrics are key. That sense of touch is important.’
In April 2021, as retail reopened across the United Kingdom, Studio Nicholson opened its flagship boutique in London’s historic Soho (it also has a store in Shoreditch, east London), a sleek space inspired by midcentury utilitarian design, featuring natural rubber, white laminate, ecru wool bouclé, and solid oak ply and modular furniture, conceived by Wakeman herself. Furniture maker Uncommon Projects provided custom frames and fixtures for the space, and upholstery expert Sedilia contributed its rounded swivel chairs. ‘I've been thinking about the store design for ten years,’ Wakeman says.
July 2021 has also seen the launch of a series of collaborations with similarly minded brands. Studio Nicholson has collaborated with Spanish leather goods brand Hereu, which pioneers artisanal local production and natural materials, on a trio of unisex fisherman’s sandals made in Spain using vegetable-tanned Italian leather. Studio Nicholson has also teamed up with fellow UK label Sunspel, the Nottingham brand behind some of the first T-shirts ever made, on a men’s and women’s modular capsule collection that reflects both brands’ affection for pared-back Japanese minimalism. The collection features sport zip-detail dresses, tracksuits and T-shirts in navy and rich white.
‘Things should be timeless,’ Wakeman says. ‘This time has really proved why pieces should withstand, season in and season out.'
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