Fashion designers, musicians, and artists alike draw inspiration from many different parts of their lives. Relationships, major life events, other works of art, and more can provide that spark of genius for them to create their masterpieces. In an interview with Elite Daily, hat designer Teressa Foglia explains how travel played a role in developing her brand and signature style. Traveling to more than 40 countries over the course of her life has provided a constant source of inspiration to make her amazing one-of-a-kind hat visions a reality.
Foglia has made hats for many celebrities, including John Mayer, Jamie Chung, Rocky Barnes, and more. While she does keep a ready-to-wear collection available on her website and through various retailers, celebs and regular hat lovers alike flock her studios in Brooklyn and Malibu to get their hands on one of her bespoke pieces. Each of Foglia’s one-of-a-kind hats is completely custom-made for the wearer — from the size, to the width of the brim, to the stiffness of the brim, to the color, to the shape, to the ornamental pieces, and everything in between.
I had the opportunity to visit Foglia at her brand-new Malibu store, which just opened earlier this summer, go through the hat customization process with her, and chat with her about her journey through simultaneously traveling and hat making.
"I moved to Europe for a year after my boyfriend of six and a half years broke up with me," Foglia tells Elite Daily. "Not only did I need a change, but honestly, I just needed to get out of bed, period. […] It was during that time that I took the hat making course in France, and then I started making them in Berlin and London." Foglia explains she had begun looking for Master’s programs in Europe in an effort to stay abroad longer, and stumbled upon the millinery course. She was interested in it because she already enjoyed wearing hats herself.
The start of Foglia’s hat making business took her wanderlust to a whole new level. And because of her traveling, her hat making business completely took off. Not only did her journeys around the world inspire her collections — just read the names of the hats on her site to know where each of those ideas came from — but she also found a new way to incorporate her travels into her designs and carve out a totally unique niche for her business: material sourcing.
"A huge part of what makes our hats unique is the places that they come from," she explains. "One really special thing to me is that the hats take on the personality of the different places where we sourced the materials from." She and her business-partner-slash-boyfriend Tyler Hays Wild have cumulatively traveled to over 60 countries, and from each of those trips, they’ve picked up a variety of fabrics and ornaments to add to all of their pieces back home. They are always keeping an eye out for things that can be used as bands and things that can add flair to any hat.
Foglia shares how a road trip through Sardinia and Corsica in Italy gifted the pair with very cherished ornaments for their hats. "There was a family that we met in Sardinia that lived a very nomadic lifestyle," she says, reminiscing. "They would spend three months in Sardinia, three months in Patagonia, and keep going around. The dad of the family hand-carved these beads and glass-blown beads, so we commissioned them to make dozens of beaded hat bands for us. Those bands still live in our storage in New York, and we still use them for our Sardinia collection."
The unique materials Foglia and Wild are able to bring home come from all over the globe. Rugs from Marrakech, hat boxes from Paris, shells from Miami, and trinkets from flea markets in various countries all come back to the Teressa Foglia design studio in Brooklyn to be used in future collections. Though this is one of Foglia’s favorite parts of her hat making and designing process, it also proves to be one of the most challenging.
"Our hats truly are one-of-a-kind, because you can’t plan out the materials in advance, and you probably can’t recreate hats if you run out of the material." she notes. "We want to have a ready-to-wear collection for a retailer like Bergdorf Goodman, but we still want the pieces to be unique for them. But then when they order a certain number of SKUs, we can run into problems." Despite this, Foglia knows that her clientele mainly comes to her for that personalized, customizable experience anyway, so as long as she is able to recreate the aesthetic of another hat, she knows she can make her clients happy.
"Fashion culture right now is so trend-driven. People wear things once and never touch them again," she says. "But our customers come to us and know that they can buy one hat, and they can come back to us as many times as they want to redesign it or reshape it. Our hats are really investment pieces. You can’t get that kind of personalization or service from just any hat brand. We’re a bespoke brand and we’re really focused on individual relationships."
She continues, "I think the reason why we’re getting in the hands of some really cool people is that our friends have been our biggest advocates. Mena Massoud [who played Aladdin in the live-action adaptation] is a friend of mine, and he would wear the hat that we made for him on set. Will Smith saw Mena’s hat and was like, ‘I want one of those.’ It’s just about our hats getting into the right hands." (In fact, Wild was actually working on Smith’s hat in the Malibu store when I visited. It’s going to look absolutely fire when it’s finished.)
It’s clear Foglia and Wild are truly living the dream, with Foglia even citing "falling in love with Tyler" as her favorite part of simultaneously traveling and hat making. And for those of you who maybe want to start up a small business or side hustle while you travel around the globe, she just has one small piece of advice: "If you want to do something, make sure you want to live and breathe it 24 hours a day. Because for us, this isn’t work. It’s just life."
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