WHILE he made an impact in the likes of Paris, London and New York over many years in his role as a globally renowned designer, the passing of Nicky Wallace was greeted with particular sadness in his native Wexford. He returned to his hometown back in 2020, in the midst of a cancer battle, to be near his children Karl and Lauren and to close the circle of returning where it all began for him in the back room of his father James’s tailor shop in the heart of the town.
Growing up in this world of fabric and patterns, it’s little wonder that Nicky went on to become a tailor to the stars. Having learned the fundamentals with his father, Nicky left Wexford as a young man to go to England where he worked in factories before settling into a successful career as a designer, something which he described himself as “largely happenstance”.
Having scooped a number of national awards in the UK and working with various design houses, Nicky developed his first collection of his own in 1982. However, his name was to become synonymous with two successes in particular. He was the man behind Johnny Logan’s legendary white suit from his 1980 Eurovision Song Contest win and also the iconic suits worn by actors Dom Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas in their roles as detectives Crocket and Tubbs in the hit show Miami Vice. They became the must-have fashion item across the globe and saw Nicky’s stock sky-rocket.
While he wasn’t one for name-dropping and what he affectionately called “the bullsh*t of the industry”, he did design for the likes of Van Morrison, Emmylou Harris, David Bowie, Kris Kristofferson and a whole host of Premier League footballers. Nicky sampled life in Hollywood, London, Paris, Milan and of course the beautiful seaside town of St Malo where he based himself for a number of years before making the move back home.
It was family that brought Nicky back. He was extremely proud of his children Karl and Lauren and granddaughter Mia. In fact, in recent weeks, he travelled to Paris with Lauren “making memories” as he said and “spending time with the impressionists in the Gallery d’Orsay”.
Perhaps at least the reason for some of Nicky’s success in life was down to his personality. He was a great conversationalist and could hold his own on any number of topics. He carried himself with a great confidence and didn't suffer fools gladly, but there was a generosity and warmth once you got behind that exterior.
Having gotten to know him in recent years, Mayor of Wexford Maura Bell described him as “a legend of the world of design”.
"Nicky had approached me when he was looking for a space to set up in on his return to Wexford,” she said. “I helped him to secure the shop in The Bullring and we became friends from there. When he returned, he had a new zest for life. He had a massively positive attitude, despite his cancer diagnosis. He was always planning further projects and was very positive.
"Even though he wasn’t that much older than me, we all looked up to Nicky in Wexford. He was ‘the designer to the stars’. It was huge to everyone in his hometown. He’s a huge loss to his family, to the design industry worldwide and to Wexford, coming from a long line of tailors in the town. I’m deeply saddened to hear of his passing. He had become a great friend and confidante.”
Despite his ongoing battle with cancer, Nicky didn’t let it slow him down any in recent years. He opened his shop in the Bullring, set about designing further creations and became enamoured with the notion of “legacy” and passing on some of the knowledge he had accumulated over his years in the industry. As well as this, he was determined to do some good work for the likes of The Hope Cancer Support Centre in Enniscorthy and was just in the process of having a huge sale of old stock with a percentage of the profits going directly towards the good cause.
In terms of legacy, he has left quite a large one. His creations have graced the biggest stages and the catwalks of the fashion capitals of the world and some now hang in museums, such was their impact at the time.
Nicky was the beloved son of the late James and Ita and was the loving father of Karl and Lauren and brother of Mary, Jim, Eugene, Brendan, Eleanor, and the late John and Dorothy. He is sadly missed by his dear friend and mother of his children Carmel, his son, daughter, daughter in law Jenni, Lauren's partner Tom, granddaughter Mia, brothers, sisters, brothers in law, sisters in law, nephews nieces, extended family friends and neighbours.
Nicky’s remains will be reposing at Kearney’s Funeral Home on Selskar Street on Tuesday, July 19, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Removal takes place on Wednesday morning at 11:30 a.m. to the Church of the Immaculate Conception Rowe Street for funeral mass at 12 noon. Cremation will take place at Mt Jerome crematorium Harold’s Cross Dublin on Thursday in the Garden chapel at 1:30 p.m.
May he rest in peace.