Hats off to Kate Middleton. She is singlehandedly sparking a revolution in hats. She is perhaps the most photographed woman in the world, and, more often than not, she’s shown wearing a hat.
Young women love Kate’s veils topped with small flowers, bows, even feathers, while older women, particularly those heading to the Kentucky Derby, are looking for Kate’s large statement hats. Whatever holiday or event you are looking forward to, why not arrive in a gorgeous hat?
We went shopping and found some great sources. Gallery Vercon, on one of our favorite shopping streets, East 9th Street in the East Village, is a virtual hat wonderland. The boutique’s window, highlighting several fanciful hats, including one with peacock feathers, is a prelude for what we discover inside. Two walls are filled with beautiful hats, each one a work of art.
Gallery Vercon’s elegant owner, Vashti de Verteuil (see our profile) says she has been doing a brisk business in hats ever since Sex and the City. She does concede that Middleton’s influence is adding a nice jolt to sales. Her hats echo earlier times—the 30s, 40s, and 50s—many using vintage accessories to complete the look. “Women of all ages are buying hats,” Vashti tells us, from young girls to the “stylish older woman.”
The gallery’s wall displays are so appealing, that we can’t help but entertain the idea of buying lots of hats and putting together a similar arrangement in our apartment. For the time being, we entertain ourselves with admiring Vashti’s offerings. There is such a variety of hats—small ones with veils, felt hats, straw hats, ones that perch on the head, others that can be worn low to nearly cover the eyes—that we have a hard time deciding. We love a whimsical hat that looks like a bird’s nest with small felt eggs inside. Gallery Vercon’s hats are priced from $129 to $350.
We stay in the East Village, our next stop Barbara Feinman Millinery on East 7th Street. Barbara herself greets us and tells us that the store’s hats are made on site. We can see a workroom in the back. Barbara says her shop enjoys “pretty steady sales,” adding, “This is New York, so people don’t drive, they walk, so they need hats. And, of course, we’re the most fashion forward place in the country.”
Barbara’s hats, perched on the heads of mannequins, offer a variety of choices and are priced from $125 to $400. Barbara says she has sources all over the country for the materials used to make each hat special and irresistible. We love the large flowers, whether the blooms top a wide brimmed straw hat or a small veil. We think Kate would love them, too.
For our third stop, we head uptown to visit the showroom for Makins Hats. Started by Marsha Akins in 1974, Makins Hats are sold in better department stores and boutiques, including Paul Stuart and Neiman Marcus. We are delighted to find there’s a sample sale going on, although Marsha laughs and tells us that sample sales happen frequently.
There are both men’s and women’s hats on sale, so we dig right in. The hats, designed by Marsha, are made on the premises and we watch some of the work going on behind the showroom. We meet one of the talented women who fashions the hats, Indira Jagonauth, who models an incredible design by Marsha in Royal blue. Fitting, no?
Marsha says she is turning over the company’s management to her son, Cody Campbell, who, she tells us, made his first hat when he was eight. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Campbell is leaving the practice of law to run the family business. One wall of the showroom displays the men’s hats that he has designed.
There are bargains to be had here. Men’s hats that retail for $225 and up, can be bought for $50, while women’s hats that sell for more than $300, can be purchased for $75. These are samples and one of a kind, so not all sizes are available. But there’s enough displayed to please most any shopper, male or female.
332 East 9th Street
Barbara Feinman Millinery
66 East 7th Street
212 West 35th Street, 12th Floor