A hand­made tale

Take one Bri­tish-Aus­tralian travel pho­tog­ra­pher and two im­pres­sively en­tre­pre­neur­ial Amer­i­cans, then add the south-west Amer­i­can desert and you have the un­der-the-radar hat line Tio y Tia. By Zara Wong.

VOGUE Australia - - VIEWPOINT -

The south-west of Amer­ica, as the three women be­hind Tio y Tia tell me, has its own mag­i­cal power. “It’s hard to ex­plain un­til you ac­tu­ally get there,” says Ni­cole Na­jafi, who is also the founder of jeans re­tailer In­dus­try Stan­dard. Tio y Tia’s story be­gan with a sin­gle vin­tage hat that Na­jafi found to shield her from the sun while spend­ing a month in the Mo­jave Desert. “It was purely func­tional, but I fell in love with it. I wore it ev­ery day and it didn’t mat­ter if you were male, fe­male, old, young, they were ask­ing me about this hat.”

Na­jafi joined forces with her friends Jo­hanna Peet (who has her own busi­ness on the side, plant-based beauty line Peet Rivko) and Bri­tish-born, Aus­tralian-based pho­tog­ra­pher Lucy Laucht to ex­plore man­u­fac­tur­ing the hats. Af­ter some re­search, they tracked down the cre­ator of the vin­tage hat, who, they dis­cov­ered, was the old­est hat­maker in Amer­ica, with clien­tele that at one time in­cluded artist Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe.

“They had heard of In­dus­try Stan­dard, so they were very ex­cited,” says Peet, who fo­cuses on the busi­ness side of the com­pany. “I had just con­cluded a six-month van trip with my hus­band, jump­ing around the south-west and west, and I thought: ‘I need to be a part of this!’ I fell in love with it out there: it’s so mag­i­cal.” It took sev­eral rounds of de­sign­ing and sam­pling to per­fect the hats, which are now avail­able at tioy­tia.com, as well as at Aus­tralian on­line re­tailer Worn Store. “Be­cause they’re made by hand, it does take a bit longer – we learnt to be pa­tient with it,” adds Laucht, who pre­vi­ously worked in so­cial me­dia for J.Crew in New York. Now liv­ing in Mel­bourne, she trav­els reg­u­larly as a pho­tog­ra­pher and over­sees Tio y Tia’s cre­ative, photography and so­cial me­dia; Na­jafi is charged with de­sign and mar­ket­ing.

For each of the women, run­ning Tio y Tia is fu­elled by pas­sion. “We love work­ing with each other, and we find a lot of joy and ex­cite­ment from com­bin­ing all of our in­ter­ests,” says Peet. “Hav­ing three founders with such com­ple­men­tary skill sets is in­sanely ef­fi­cient.” The three also had un­der­taken a “co-founders’ cre­ative road trip” last Novem­ber, start­ing in Utah and then driv­ing south to Ari­zona. “When the three of us were in the desert, it’s just so slow out there and the ideas poured out of us.”

The first hat they re­leased, the Gam­bler, is based on a tra­di­tional west­ern-style hat worn by men. It was re­pur­posed for women by adding a string cord – “string cords were tra­di­tion­ally worn by women”, ex­plains Na­jafi. “And it’s cute hav­ing a string cord, but also func­tional, so it doesn’t fly off your head!” Other styles are soft­ened with ad­di­tions such as a rib­bon trim.

Na­jafi ad­mits that pre­vi­ously she was de­ter­minedly not a hat per­son. “Not un­til I found the hat – and now I’m ob­sessed!” she says with a laugh. Laucht de­murs that be­ing based in Aus­tralia, hat-wear­ing cul­ture has stayed with her. And as Peet ex­plains, a new­found ap­pre­ci­a­tion for hats through her com­pany has im­bued her style with as­sured­ness and flair. “In New York, wear­ing a hat can be in­tim­i­dat­ing. I used to be one of those peo­ple who would be self-con­scious about wear­ing a hat and now I love it – it gives you so much more con­fi­dence. If you’re some­one who wears a hat, you’re just re­ally own­ing it.”

“WEAR­ING A HAT GIVES YOU SO MUCH MORE CON­FI­DENCE”

A model wear­ing a Tio y Tia hat, pho­tographed by one of the la­bel’s founders, Lucy Laucht.

Tio y Tia Gam­bler hat, $290.

Tio y Tia Taos hat, $320.

Tio y Tia Paloma hat, $245.

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