Hat designer Heather Daveno creates a collection which blends her love of travel with artistic inspiration.
What influences your hat design?
I’ve always been interested in history and culture. My studies led me to a reenactment group, where I taught myself to replicate hats worn during the medieval and renaissance periods. Later on, I started fusing styles and motifs, embroidering Celtic knotworks onto Asian hats, and adapting Russian manuscript borders for my Garden Hats.
Travel has also been a major influence in my work. The scrollwork from a Venetian bridge became a hat motif. I remastered my Afghani hat in brocades after seeing the vaulted ceilings of the Medici Palaces in Florence. Istanbul inspired hats patterned after domes of the Aya Sofia and the Topkapi Palace. My hats reflect my anthropological world view…
Where do you find the recycled materials that you use?
I’ve been a thrift store shopper most of my life. The culture of reuse, reclaim and recycle became my lifestyle and mission statement. Shopping second hand yields fabrications in quality, weaves, and colors that I can’t find at regular retail outlets. I also work with a historical costumer in California who ships me wool, linen and brocade scraps from their cutting room floor, that would elsewise end up in their local land fill.
I acquire most of my furs from customers who bring me coats they have inherited. I craft ‘heritage hats’ for them, using part of the coat for their hat, and keeping the rest of the fur as partial payment. It makes both of us happy!
Talk about your workmanship.
Durability is a hallmark of my work. I distress fabrics in a hot washer and dryer to weed out inferior pieces. Most of my work is by hand because it makes a higher quality hat with a much better fit. It’s worth it to take extra time to produce a quality handcraft.
Selling handcrafted clothing is a matter of educating your customer. I counter ‘sticker shock’ by selling my hats as investment pieces, like a good pair of shoes or a suit. People who purchased my hats fifteen years ago are still wearing them today. I have collectors who buy new hats every year, telling their friends that “one cannot own too many of [Heather's] hats”.
How do you make most of your sales?
Shows and galleries allow people to handle my hats and try them on. Word of mouth is one of my most powerful marketing tools.
My favorite shows are hosted by art schools where a percentage of sales are re-invested into their fine art programs. Shows that run November through early January, give me sustained exposure in those markets. I also attend local art shows, and always work on hats in my booth, to demonstrate that my hats are ‘made by local artisan hands.’
My website is a secondary point of sale. People who see my hats at shows, visit my website to order custom work. My website is my best way of connecting with customers between shows.