Five NYC Millineries Where You Can Buy Handmade Hats
Artisan Hatmaking in America
There's something extraordinary about a handmade hat. Hat-making or millinery is an ancient craft that is a lot more difficult than it looks—it requires knowledge of traditional techniques, creativity, tools such as vintage hat molds (known as blocks), a hat-sewing machine, as well as material such as rare feathers, wool, and straw from the far-flung corners of the world. To make just one hat by hand can take between a couple of hours to a few days!
Until the 1950s, a hat was part of any #ootd for both men and women. Then they fell out of vogue with the masses—millineries around the world shuttered their doors and hat-making moved to assembly-line mass production in locales around the world with cheaper labor.
In recent years though, there has been a rise in young people in cities like New York studying the craft of millinery and fusing old world hat-making craftsmanship with contemporary style. It's all part of a movement in appreciation of handmade things. When a hat is made by hand, you know exactly who made it and you can customize it to your liking. You bond with the milliner and form a special connection to the hat. Handmade hats have excellent quality that lasts for many years—plus, you can change out things like ribbons and have any wear repaired. A hat truly elevates any outfit.
Here, we’ve rounded up a list of artisanal hat-makers based in NYC who are preserving the craft of handmade hats in America.
1. Gigi Burris
The Gigi Burris studio is located in New York’s trendy Lower East Side neighborhood, where all pieces are produced. The hats are known for intricate feather and couture handwork, as well as alligator skin – a passion undoubtedly acquired from the milliner's Floridian roots. The millinery sources the finest material from around the world. Delicate straw braids are imported from Switzerland, feathers from Italy, felt from the Czech Republic, and silk ribbons from Japan. The feathers use intricate millinery treatments; the flowers are handmade by a flora atelier. Hats are created using the ancient technique of hand blocking on wooden blocks.
Gigi Burris headpieces are sold in luxury boutiques around the world. In New York City, her work can be found in Bergdorf Goodman. The milliner has an online shop and is also available on Moda Operandi.
2. Yestadt Millinery
I had the pleasure of meeting the founder of Yestadt Millinery, Molly Yestadt last year at a panel discussion on the sustainability of ethical fashion. She wore an incredible fedora and discussed working with skilled artisan weavers from Haiti on her collection. I was hooked as I never gave hatmaking much thought until Molly talked about the intricate process. I found a newfound appreciation for the craft.
Yestadt Millinery collaborates with luxury designers and the hats appear on seasonal runways. The hats are manufactured domestically and most finishings are done in the milliner's NYC-based studio in the Lower East Side, which you can visit by making an appointment. The millinery uses traditional craft such as hand blocking and finishing techniques in the highest quality fur felts available.
3. East Village Hats
East Village hats is a neighborhood gem of a hat shop I have the pleasure of living a few blocks from. Located in a quintessentially New York space, it's adorned with beautiful straw and felt hats that are made on premise by two milliners using a century old sewing machine, an extensive block collection and material from around the world. There are many styles to choose from but you can also have a hat custom made, down to the ribbon. What we especially love is that you can change out a ribbon for just $25, creating a whole new look.
The millinery has hat-making classes taught by the owner, Julia Knox and guest milliners from around the world. We went in intending to to just take a few photos but three of us came out with a fabulous new summer straw hat for each one. The average price is about $400 apiece. I ended ended up ordering a custom Dior-style hat and Julia Knox let me come in to the shop to take photos while she made my hat.
4. Eugenia Kim
Eugenia Kim is a celebrity favorite headwear brand known for a modern take on classic shapes with a playfulness to it by using bold colors and unique trims.
The brand has recently expanded to shoes, handbags and accessories. Her collection is sold at luxury retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York, Harvey Nichols, Net-a-Porter and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as other department stores, specialty boutiques, and online site.
5. Satya Twena Fine Millinery
Satya Twena Fine Millinery acquired Manhattan’s last hat factory, Makins Hat factory, where 30-something year old Satya once sources supplies from for her millinery - essentially preserving an American landmark. The factory was saved along with over 2,000 hat blocks, felt, feathers, trims, and and artisans who have worked at the factory for decades.
You can have a custom hat made using the style, shape, fabric and color of your choice - staff will even help you pick the shape and color that fits you best. A custom hat costs $956 and you can have made either visiting factory or placing an order online.
Being NYC-based, all these millineries produce everything locally and are able to move product much faster than they would otherwise, allowing a faster turnaround time for custom-made headpieces.
Have you purchased a hand-made hat?
NYC Millineries With Physical Locations You Can Visit
Yestadt Millinery Note: visits are by appointment only
East Village Hats
Satya Twena Fine Millery