Watch any film before the 1960′s and you’ll be hard pressed to find a man who is not wearing a hat. Often times, the same would go for women. From top hats and porkpies to cloches and pill box hats…they were the accessory you never left the house without. But somewhere between ‘Hatless Jack’ and ‘the times they are a changin,’ hats slowly but surely became the ghost of fashion’s past. That is, until now.
The runway for Fall 2012 has been littered with hats from all walks of life. Designers like Nicole Miller, Ruffian, Ralph Lauren, and Hermès secured hats as staple pieces throughout their RTW collections. Hats are on the rise again and we’ve got a hankering for headwear like never before. Enter Janessa Leone, a Los Angeles up and coming hat designer, with an eponymous line. JBCStyle had a chance to sit down with Janessa to view her collection and discuss the whole spectrum of this dome piece renaissance.
Janessa Leone struck us as an old soul with an honest appreciation for the finer things in life. The first thing we wanted to know upon meeting her was, why choose hats over any other accessory? Turns out, it all started with a getaway to Paris several years ago with her boyfriend. “We were walking around these little vintage Parisian shops, when I stumbled upon a hat that reminded me of my grandpa. It was from the late 1930′s to early 1940′s generation and had been worn at some point, but was really still in impeccable condition.” She recalled her grandfather, born and bred on the east coast, who was always wearing a hat. “He knew this culture of wearing a thing into the ground.” So Janessa bought the hat, started wearing it about and after receiving heaps of compliments on it, realized “there was a huge market out there who really wanted a nice hat.”
What ever happened to the age of hat wearers? “You didn’t go anywhere without your hat back then,” Janessa laments. This is the mentality hats by Janessa Leone begs to preserve, a sturdy mainstay within ones wardrobe. For inspiration, Janessa looks to the classics. “I loved what Coco Chanel stood for. She was taking something that was very against the grain and turning them into something very functional.” Janessa’s designs, in a way, are against the grain today in the sense that they are timeless. “Ultimately, I want to design things that will last a long time and get passed on even. Fashion is so full of things that are flippant.”
Staying true to her brand is paramount to Janessa. We asked her what she thought of today’s trends; whether she’d incorporate some of the bright colors for the next season or if she’d consider doing the ever-popular floppy brim. “I like buying trends and throw away pieces, but I think I would lose a little bit of my brand identity if I went that direction. I want the line to remain very androgynous and that is all feminine.” Long term speaking, however, Janessa does plan to turn her line into an entire ready to wear collection, replete with dresses and tuxedos suitable for a woman. A Coco Chanel reincarnation?
So what makes Janessa’s hats exceptional? This girl is all about quality and feel. When starting out, Janessa scoured far and wide to find a manufacturer with the right make and material for the body of her hats, landing on a supplier out of Canada who provides only the best fur felt. Fur felt makes all of the difference in the world when it comes to hats. Most inexpensive versions will be cut from wool felt, which is coarse to the touch. Fur felt derives from the soft, under-fur of rabbits…giving the felt a silken texture. Fur felt has also proven to wear better, longer and breathes easier than its woolen counterfeit. She also uses rare pheasant, rooster and pigmy feathers bought from a sustainable farm in California. As for her other adornments, Janessa only buys butter-soft lambskin leather and 24-carat gold, antiqued or gunmetal miniature chains.
Janessa just launched her website, janessaleone.com. Her hats are one of a kind and made to order. She does have nine styles showcased on her site, which give you an idea of the color or body you want and how you might want it accessorized. No two feathers are exactly alike, so each hat is custom built. “It’s really important for me to give the customer a pristine, quality product…so the bodies are all kept covered in their hat boxes until it’s time to design for the specific order.” Once your hat has been crafted, it’s carefully wrapped in Parisian decorative paper and placed in a quaint Janessa Leone box. This idea is so old school, it’s new again! We simply adore Janessa Leone and her lovely hats and we know you will too.