Sunday, July 10, 2016

MAD HATTERS at City Lore Gallery

"MAD HATTERS: New York Hats and Hatmakers" is a fun show at City Lore Gallery in the East Village which celebrates the fact that NYC, known for having attitude, possesses just as big dose of emblematic HAT-itude! Take our advice and make it your business to see the show before it closes July 31, 2016.

While Valerie is cavorting in Boston this weekend, Jean is keeping the home fires burning, so to speak, and is posting on the exhibit. We both saw the show, but separately, so this is Jean's "take" on the show, the milliners and their wonderful creations.  Last weekend, Jean met photographer Rose Hartman for brunch (at Rose's West Village haunt, Sant Ambroeus, where she took this terrific photo of Jean in her aptly named "Breakfast Hat" by Henrik Vibskov). Afterward, Jean strolled back to the East Village to see the MAD HATTERS show, where the festive headwear below greets visitors entering the gallery. You know you're on the right place when you see it.

During the 1930s, city streets were a sea of brims and you weren't a New Yorker without a hat. Both fashionable and practical, hats were a means of expressing one's style while mitigating exposure to the elements. The premise of the show is that although the 1950s ushered in a post-war era wherein the everyday hat was no longer a necessity, stylish New Yorkers never lost their love of hats and NYC's wealth of HAT-itude is unparalleled. MAD HATTERS explores the identities that New Yorkers carve out for themselves simply by donning simple headwear in a crowded city, with special attention to the City's defining grassroots folk cultures, master milliners and men and women who proudly wear hats to express their cultural traditions or "simply for the hell of it". Amen, we say, and here we go!

Peruvian Dance Hats: Peru is famous for over 500 distinct style of folk dance, originating in towns and villages sprinkled across the nation. Characteristic hat worn by the dancers are specific to place of origin. This colorful, felted wool Cusco Montera hat is well known, both in Peru and in the NYC Peruvian communities.

Milliner Linda Ashton's miniature hats embellished with vintage materials from her extensive collection, titled "Clown Hats", are filled with style and mirth. If this be clownish, we say: Bring it on!

Jamaican milliner, now NYC resident, C.J. Lewis, called her creation "Lace Rhinestone Unicorn Hat" made of lace fabric on armature with sewn ribbons and ornaments. Her shop, Cejunel Hats and Accessories, is located at 1439 East Gun Hill Road, Bronx, NY. Although many of her clients are churchwomen of diverse denominations, she makes hats for all occasions.

We have admired Wanda Chambers work at numerous exhibitions. A member of the Milliners Guild and an FIT graduate, Wanda proudly declares coming from a long line of "Sunday Go To Meeting Church Hat Wearing Women". She has been a designer for over 20 years. Her business is called Once Upon a Hat. Her Easter Hat, "The Marcella", is a small brim top hat with net and ribbon overlay and a red satin band trimmed with white beads and white rods.

We have known Ellen Christine and admired her work for years. According to signage for the show, she has over 30 years experience designing and fabricating authentic a la main millinery for both theater and couture and she claims "the undisputed crown for authentic epoque and high fashion millinery". A doctoral candidate in costume history at NYU, she produces one-of-a-kind hats to exacting specifications, "down to the opulent and historically accurate pattern making, stitching and materials." Pictured are two of her creations. "Doll's Hat" (left) is an Easter Hat of parisisal tonal green with silk flowers piled high in shades of fuschia, purple and magenta, shaped by hand and and finished with a chenille dotted veil in forest green. "Diva" (right) is a fascinator on a 4" base covered in patchwork sequins, sky high curled burnt ostrich feathers and black veiling.

Lisa Shaub Fine Millinery's description of "East Village Art Girl" is a trip down memory lane for Jean who lived downtown in the 1970s and frequented all of the places in Lisa's signage: "She is invited everywhere and knows everyone. She has unique style and wants to look different, so always makes her own clothes and her hats. On a typical night, she will attend an opening at Mary Boone (W. Broadway, Soho), go to the after party dinner at Indochine (Still there! Lafayette at 7th Street), go to the Limelight (6th Ave at 18th Street) to dance like a maniac. Everyone else is wearing clothes such as a Candelabra as a hat, a Superman suit, cape and clogs, or maybe a 1920 opium babe. When she has had a blast, she goes to the last place open, famous after hours club Save the Robots (Avenue B and 3rd Street)."

The show included work from several milliners from Jamaica and several male hat makers. Carlos Lewis is both. Born and raised in Jamaica, Carlos moved to New York to study dress design at FIT, where he was introduced to millinery. He found his true calling and has been working in the trade for 35 years. Carlos NY Hats was founded in 1980 and caters to celebrities and churchwomen.  Carlos also  produces custom designs for private clientele.

Evetta Petty is another member of the Milliners Guild who is an FIT graduate.  We appreciate and have long enjoyed her work at a number of exhibitions and at the Easter Parade. She has been designing for over 20 years and her work is known for its humor, rhythm and use of hat pins . Her shop, Harlem's Heaven Hat Boutique, is located at 2538 7th Avenue in uptown NY.  Her custom designs appeal to celebrities like Patti LaBelle and Star Jones and to churchwomen and ladies who like to dress. Jean madly covets her dramatic hat with black satin ribbon, spiral stitched, tall cylindrical straw crown topped by a crystal hat pin.

Long time readers of our blog know that at every Easter Parade, we eagerly look forward to seeing and photographing Elaine Norman in one of her amazing hand-painted straw hats featuring New York City landmarks. (We also often meet post-parade with Elaine and her husband for cocktails at The Modern, but that's another story.) Elaine's hats are history lessons that draw New Yorkers' attention to details that many of us have forgotten or never noticed. Her 2005 "FairWell Fulton" acrylic on straw hat is her homage to the historic Fulton Street Fish Market which was once a pungent city fixture on the East River in Tribeca for an amazing 183 years. Her signage goes on to explain how the market was forced to leave its increasingly lucrative location for a brand new, better-equipped but completely lackluster space in the Bronx.  

Another Jamaican reference is Jacqueline Lamont's had with a Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah - Rastafari medallion. She said her felt and fabric blocked hat was inspired by Jamaica and Reggae music.

For more than 30 years, Brooklyn native artist Wendy Brackman aka Wacky Wendy has been entertaining audiences with her Wacky Hats. Also known as the Mad Hatter and the Matisse of Milliners, she freehand cuts colorful paper discs into pop-up party hats for audiences to wear and take home.  She commissioned another male hat maker, Luis Aleman, to create this "MadHattin'" straw top hat with lots historic landmarks against the NYC skyline at sunset.    

Marcus Malchijah, a Guyanese self-taught milliner, became interested in hat making at the age of eight.  He turned his interest into a profession in the 1980s as a therapeutic means of dealing with his grief over the death of his son. He founded his own company Malchijah Hats and store at 942 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn where he continues to make and sell hats. Since so many of his early customers were churchwomen who kept his business afloat, he now donates some of his hats to churches around the city.  This convoluted Dr. Seuss-like straw hat struck a nerve with Jean, reminding her of her Ignatius crooked black straw witches hat.

Milliners Guild member (and past president)  Linda Ashton created this "Tools of the Trade" hot pink velour fur felt top hat with a miniature hat on a vintage hat stand displaying all of the tools milliners use like thread, scissors and appliques. Linda was discovered at a juried hat show at the American Craft Museum by legendary millinery teach Ann Albrizio, who brought her to FIT where Linda graduated from its millinery program. The Hat Shop New York.

Lisa McFadden's African printed braided cotton and wire fascinator is, to our way of thinking, more of a hat than a fascinator -- which is a good thing. A Milliners Guild member, Lisa completed fashion design degrees at Bauder College and the American College for Applied Arts. Lisa's designs fuse vintage inspiration with contemporary style, to complement the wearer's individuality.

In 1995, Linda Pagan, also from the Milliners Guild, opened The Hat Shop which showcases local NY milliners as well as its own line The Hat Shop NYC. You can custom order or buy hats right off the rack. Linda's "Crown Heights" is inspired by traditional round crown, medium brim hats worn by Orthodox Jewish men. Her interpretation has a wonderful twist -- a lipstick/cigar holder -- on the brim.

We thought we'd end this post with Kathy Anderson's Easter hat  --a black and white toyo straw button hat with small red roses, butterflies, white feather and veiling. A Milliners Guild member and FIT graduate who worked in the fashion industry for 25 years in a variety of areas, Kathy returned to FIT in 1989 to take additional courses in fashion styling, knitting, flower making and millinery and fell in love with this art form. She is an artist who continues to learn taking classes from Nora Novarro and Ann Albrizio, founder of FIT's millinery program, and British milliner Dillon Wallwork.  Kathy's couture hand blocked and sewn hats are produced in her Manhattan studio. In addition to hat in a wide variety of fabrics and materials, she makes beautiful leather flower bouquets and pins. Leather bouquets can be made for the bride and bridal party. How fabulous!  Her company is Hats by Kat and her hats are available at The Hat Shop in Soho and Tribal Truth Collections in Brooklyn.  She belongs to Diaspora Art Mart, a collection of artisans who come together to sell their work every second Saturday of the month at the YWCA in downtown Brooklyn.

Like we said at the beginning, the show ends July 31st. And it's free! Be there or be square.


  1. I would LOVE to be there,at Mad Hatters - what brilliant, fabulous millinery but as I'm across the ocean and sadly not near NY before July 31, I'll have to remain square. Thank you for taking me on part of this wonderful tour.