1840 Journal

Meet the artisans, discover their expertise, and share their passion.


Hat Heads: A little chat with those who love a good hat

16 Oct 2018

Tall or small, round or square, traditional or eccentric, hats never go unnoticed. But they always reflect the work of the hands that made them… 

Sometimes worn for its functionality, sometimes for its look, and sometimes even to show a social status, the hat is an accessory with a unique history that has left its mark on fashion throughout the ages. Very little has changed in the techniques used to make hats since the 14th century. First, the hatter dampens the fabric (usually felt or straw) and then stretches it out over a wooden mould to give it the desired shape. Complex and unique, this method of handicraft is what has given the trade its fame. 

Today, few master this art, but it is still very much alive. It’s been uniquely reborn at the hands of passionate local artisans who each give it their very own personal touch. Let’s introduce you to them! 

Fumile, where passion comes to a head

Alex Surprenant and Mélodie Lavergne, the creators behind Fumile, are fascinated by hat making and particularly by its traditional production method, which is filled with history. “The mould is really the centre of our approach. This is the piece that the hat is shaped around and what makes it come to life.” It's also what makes Fumile stand out. By connecting their modern vision to the expertise of the past, they create original pieces that are both bold and elegant. “We appreciate the class of traditional English hats as well as the styles that come from the Midwest, but we're also constantly on the lookout for what's new. Right now, we're in the middle of developing our own moulds.” 

Bringing their unique touch to the industry, they’re inspired by the shapes, colours, and materials around them. “We love to mix trends!” Their Orléans beret, for example, reinvents the side-sloping fabric beret in a modern, structured design.

Camille Côté, making hats for modern women

Unlike her counterparts at Fumile, Camille Côté isn't as interested in moulds. Thanks to her ingenious signature design featuring an elastic band and an opening at the back of the hat, she just needs one mould to make all of her pieces. “I prefer to have fun with colours, shapes, and detachable elements, like bows.” This is how the young designer creates a variety of hats that always fit perfectly, regardless of different hair types or face shapes. 

Following in the steps of Coco Chanel (the designer who democratized wearing pants), Camille wishes to redefine the hat in the modern era as a practical accessory that allows all women to express themselves. “A hat should be comfortable and adapted to life today. It has to be weatherproof for everyday life.”

Heirloom, ready-to-wear works of art

For Samantha-Tara Mainville, the creative soul behind Heirloom, hats are sculptures. The Montreal designer plays around with colours, textures, and patterns in order to produce her whimsical and artistic pieces. “I would like to hold an exhibition for my hats!” Her biggest inspiration is Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, a major figure in the surrealist movement of the ‘30s. Schiaparelli is best known for the high heel-shaped hat that she made in collaboration with Salvador Dalí.   

Samantha’s collection entitled Les Madeleines is a series of berets embroidered with colourful faces that perfectly illustrate her desire to elevate hats to the status of works of art. “I play with movement and explore possibilities that will give a 3D-effect to my hats.”