Icons / August 2016

Words of Wisdom: Bernard Fouquet

Continuing our exploration of rakish eminence grises, The Rake meets menswear model Bernard Fouquet and attempts to pin down his inimitable joie de vivre.

Bernard Fouquet is not your average model. Male, over 60, with a shock of silver hair and piercing blue eyes, he cuts a distinctly atypical, yet nonetheless rakish dash. He has six children (one son, five daughters) and manages to balance what appears to be a family life lifted straight from the pages of a Tommy Hilfiger campaign (which isn’t far off – both he and a number of his children work with the house) with an unsurprisingly successful modelling career, as well as running his own cashmere business from whichever corner of the globe he happens to be on at any given time. A true friend of The Rake, Bernard was kind enough to talk us through some of the pearls of wisdom he has accrued over the years.

“It’s funny, a friend just called and asked if I was on holiday, and I said ‘I am never on holiday!’” A miserable thought for most, but Bernard’s easy laugh and mock-surprise at the question reveals quite how much he loves his work. “First of all, there is no really bad part of my job – that’s what I think all the time,” Bernard explains, questioning how he could possibly complain about a client when there is such a strong mutual trust implicit between himself and the brand who has booked him. “The best part of the job is travelling and meeting different people all the time. That’s one of the things I love more than anything… And on top of that you get to make a living which is pretty good, no?” With the twinkle in his eye and relaxed attitude towards his admittedly ‘pretty good’ job means it would be easy to assume that Fouquet has had an easy life. Not so.

“You have to suffer – if you don’t suffer, you don’t learn."

“Don’t do drugs and don’t drink. That’s what I would say to myself at 16. When you use drugs and you do a lot of drinking, it affects so many things in your life – your relationships, job, everything”. Bernard is open and retrospectively level-headed about the addiction he tackled – and has now beaten. His roller-coaster experience – “you get angry, you get crazy, you get happy, you get sad” – taught him some of his hardest lessons. “You have to suffer – if you don’t suffer, you don’t learn. I am the type of person who learns a lot by suffering. You have to learn the hard way. When everything is too sweet and nice, what do you learn?” His thick French accent takes on a humble, pensive pace when he talks of the difficulties he’s faced, but he always ends on a positive. “I have been sober now for 21 years and I can see a big difference, I tell you. I go to AA, I have done all that work. It was not easy but the reason we do it is so that every day is better and better and better.”

Bernard’s unfailingly optimistic outlook only adds to his charm and he has the sort of open personality that makes you feel like you’ve known him far beyond a half hour Skype conversation. “I never really give up and I think I have a lot of discipline for myself, and I won’t change that at all. That discipline – you know, it’s a funny story. When I got divorced the second time, I was using drugs and drinking and it was a bad divorce. My lawyer said ‘You know what, Bernard, I want you to have discipline!’ Since that day, I realised I paid my lawyer too much; I lost the case, but to tell you the truth I won in the respect that I found my inner discipline. It’s something I had to learn; he said ‘You need discipline or you won’t go anywhere.’ So I said, ‘Ok, fine.’” Bernard’s idea of a funny story might not be entirely conventional, but he has the sense to laugh at the irony of his expensive lawyer who lost him a lot, but taught him something more valuable than anything material.

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Anna Prendergast

Anna is a freelance writer and former staffer at The Rake. She is passionate about travel, well made clothes and homemade chocolate chip cookies.