“I always hankered after making things, and I particularly liked that artisan area within fashion,” says London-born designer Anthony Peto. “Once I realised that I liked making hats, there was no stopping me.”
Anthony’s atelier has been up and running for a long time, though he resists putting an exact date on it (“We’re talking decades,” he says, with a smile); it is now the only hat-making workshop in central Paris. Around a dozen craftspeople, some of whom have been with the company for 20 years, make each piece by hand. What emerge are traditional styles – trilbies, bowlers, top hats – reimagined in innovative shapes, colours and fabrics.
Inspiration for the hats can come from anywhere. “When you’re a designer, you’re always ‘on’ – your brain is always looking for things,” says Anthony. Winter styles are made from rabbit-hair or wool felt, while summer styles often use straw. He also sources wools and linens from Scotland, northern England and Ireland.
For a felt hat, the material is first softened in steam, making it more pliable. It’s then stretched over a heated aluminium block to form the shape.
Once the hat has been blocked, it is hemmed and a ribbon is sewn inside. The felt is buffed to give a velvety lustre to the fabric – a long process – then trimmed with a second ribbon on the outside.
“My hope is that whatever we make, it will be recognisable as our work without any need for a logo. We take traditional shapes and try to expand what they are, constantly pushing the boundaries to make them different; we all want something that we haven’t seen before. They’re lively hats, and they have a personality.”