jennifer oulette

Made in Manhattan: A Visit to Jennifer Ouellette’s Millinery Studio

Hats are having a moment.

We’re not sure where it started—the Royal Wedding or Hedi Slimane’s first show for Saint Laurent maybe. Regardless, big brims are back, and we couldn’t be happier.

Hats, you see, have transformative powers—think Zorro or even Jackie O—and if there’s anyone aware of their potential, it’s milliner Jennifer Ouellette. After apprenticing under the famous Stephen Jones, Jennifer created her own label and has been growing the business for the past 17 years. Most of her hats are made here in New York by the hands of skilled artisans, though she recently expanded production to the Dominican Republic. The benefit of keeping manufacturing close to home is that every detail, from the color of barely-there thread to deadstock Swiss grosgrain trim, falls under Jennifer’s watchful eye.

The Window dropped in on her light-filled Flatiron studio and showroom to learn more about the process. Lucky for us, Jennifer was just putting the finishing touches on the spring and summer hats ordered by Barneys. Check out the pictures below, and start planning for the sunny days ahead.

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Ann sunhats and Driggs fedoras waiting to be finished. 

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Roman stitches together four different colors of straw on an antique sew-and-braid machine. The machines are rare, as are the people skilled enough to operate them. 

_DSC1484Colorful threads for trimming.

_DSC1559Rosa steams the brims of straw hats in order to give them their final shape. 

_DSC1487Jennifer has sourced more than two hundred wooden hat blocks from flea markets and antique shops around the world. They are each made of interchangeable parts, producing infinite combinations. 

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After a few minutes in the steam machine, a hat (typically wool) can be shaped around the block. 

_DSC1553Tina adds silk ribbons to her eponymous Tina hats.  

_DSC1556An elastic thread is run through the interior head ribbon to allow wearers to adjust the size.

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SHOP ALL JENNIFER OUELLETTE

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