The SPY Debrief: Nicolas Bijan on Impulse-Buying a Vintage Porsche and Stealing Hotel Ashtrays

In the most literal sense, Nicolas Bijan has menswear sewn into his DNA. Nearly five decades ago, his father, Bijan Pakzad, founded House of Bijan, a luxury menswear, perfume, and jewelry label with a by-appointment-only showroom on Rodeo Drive. When Pakzad died of a stroke, back in 2011, Bijan was only 19, but he stepped up to helm the business. Now, more than a decade later, Bijan is hard-launching his own label: NB44, a high-end, invitation-only menswear membership service that he began to roll out on the down-low last year.

SPY spoke to Bijan about the major purchases that matter most in his life, the vintage Porsche he impulse-bought but doesn’t drive, and his habit of stealing high-end hotel ashtrays.

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What’s the first major purchase you made with your own money? Why did you choose it?

I bought my first house in my mid-twenties. I wanted to settle down. I ended up buying a house in West Hollywood, in Los Angeles. I bought it because my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, told me to do it. I actually wanted to buy a different house, but she was telling me about that house and I ended up buying it, and…. she ended up moving in.

Looking back, it was probably more than I should have taken on at that age, but I’m glad I did it. I got more serious with somebody I love. Now, we have two kids and a beautiful life together.

What direct-to-consumer ads do your algorithms feed you? Put another way, who does your algorithm think you are? Is it on par with how you think of yourself, or not so much?

I’m ashamed to even look.

Wait, are you doing it in real time?

Yes! I’m looking at Instagram’s Explore page. It thinks much less of me than I think of myself. I’m seeing a lot of vintage cars. A lot of private jets. A lot of men’s clothing. I swear, I’m deeper than that. However, I do see a couple of our clients — a couple of our NB44 members — so that makes me happy.

If you could be a spokesperson for an existing brand, what would it be and why?

I think any company that really cares — one that goes that extra 100 percent beyond what is expected of them, for their customers — is one I’d want to be a spokesperson for. I think Peninsula Hotels does an amazing job of that.

We have clients and members who list their shipping address as the Peninsula Hotel. Every quarter, we’re shipping collections to different Peninsula properties for clients to review when they arrive. That’s a crazy thing for a business to do. Overall, Peninsula does a hell of a job.

What items do you carry with you every day?

Lately, I’ve been so reliant on my iPad. It has to come almost everywhere with me because I travel a lot. It’s better than carrying a big laptop.

What’s one purchase you regret making?

I impulse-bought this beautiful vintage car. I’m a big car fan. It’s a Porsche 993 Carrera from 1998 — the last year of the air-cooled Porsche. Anyone who’s an automotive enthusiast will sympathize with me on that. But I bought it with so few miles on it that I can’t drive it; if I drive it, it ruins the value of the car.

I want to drive it every day, but I’ll only drive it on special days. It lives in my garage. I named it Penelope. I almost named my daughter Penelope, but my wife wanted a different name, so my car is named Penelope.

Have you ever shoplifted? If so, what? 

I’ve never shoplifted — it’s against my core DNA, given that I’m in the high-end fashion business — but I can confess that I have a habit of stealing high-end hotel ashtrays. I have a collection at my house from all these amazing hotels. I don’t know if the hotels end up charging me for it. After this interview, they’re probably going to.

The ashtrays are amazing — I display them as decoration but I also use them! I think, if somebody comes over and wants to smoke a cigar, to bring out an ashtray — from, you know, The Peninsula Hong Kong, for example — is like, Wow, that’s so cool! It’s gotten so bad that friends bring me ashtrays from other hotels.

You have a reputation among thieves. This story will do nothing to dissuade people.

I don’t even smoke!

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