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Pork Pie Hatters and JJ Hat Center are pleased to announce the newest addition to the family - Director of Millinery, Ryan Wilde! An established hat maker most known for handmade women's pieces, her custom headwear has appeared on celebrities like Janet Jackson, Rosario Dawson, Alec Baldwin and internationally in publications like Vogue magazine. No surprise for someone who counts Isabella Blow, the woman that launched legends like Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy, as mentor and instigator towards pursuing millinery. Her first several collections were picked up by NY fashion icons Henri Bendels and Patricia Fields; an interesting juxtaposition of clientele. Between the ritzy Fifth Ave socialites of Bendels and the over the top club kid roots of Fields, Ryan found her following; and you'd be hard pressed to find a better example of what makes her pieces stand out. Her hats have a glamour that speaks to everyone.
I remember walking by Ryan Wilde's store in Williamsburg and doing an immediate double-take. Her pieces had the right touches of whimsy, and elegance. “I always want everything to be a little surreal when it comes to women's fashion,” she says as I sit with her at the brooklyn Pork Pie Hatters store, her new permanent location. And she succeeds, with pieces like her infamous bunny ear hat she turns the surreal into something very approachable and attractive. “I think the way a hat looks on a woman's head is the most important thing. You have to teach her how to wear it. You can make a bunny hat that looks completely stupid on everyone or you can make a bunny hat that actually looks kind of amazing. And you know, that's what I've always really focused on is making sure that my funny and avant-garde stuff is still flattering because in the end that's all a woman really wants. Something that makes her look pretty and interesting and cool and not just silly.”
It's this ability to straddle that line of tasteful and over the top that helps her bring out the best in her clients, “A lot of the times women will walk into my store and they'll be like 'oh my god, these hats are so ridiculous' and, 'I would never wear them'. And I put them on them and then they walk out with one. Because they don't imagine that they could ever look ok in that.” Bringing fantasy to life is all about making it relatable. “It's not like I'm making tie dye hats. Usually they're very simple colors and easy to wear.”
So what does this new voice mean for Pork Pie Hatters? “I think that combining our two efforts is the right way to have a hat store because the same person that might buy the craziest hats that I make are also going to want the fisherman's cap or a fedora, or a bowler and those people are going to want the bowler to look exactly how it looks in like Deadwood. […] I think it's good especially for people who are really into hats to have a store like this where you have the full spectrum. Besides like a department store you would never really get that. And department stores in America are actually getting rid of [avant-garde headwear designer] Phillip Treacy and everything like that because Americans have a tendency to not take as many fashion risks in headwear so I think it's going to be an awesome combination and a real destination for hat wearers.”
It turns out this collaboration won't be such a stretch for everyone. For a long time Pork Pie Hatters and Ryan Wilde's Ida location had an almost symbiotic relationship, “Everything [at previous location Ida] was custom and it was amazing. But so many people would come in and ask for the classic pork pie, the classic trilby, the classic everything and you know, for someone like me I make hats to create looks, make something new, so that's not something I really wanted to focus on... When Pork Pie moved in, I thought 'Oh perfect!' I sent everyone here and then I started noticing that Sean and Colin were sending women to me, like if a guy was getting a classic straw hat his wife would say, 'Oh I want something, I want a fascinator', so they would come directly with the Pork Pie box to my store and get a fancy lady hat. I felt like there was a good connection between our two stores instantly.”
While I was there Ryan was working on a summery straw hat that fit in perfectly amongst the panamas and fedoras in the shop, a nod to the classic men's styles surrounding her. “I'm a hat maker when it comes down to it, I'm not trying to be Karl Lagerfeld. I really love making hats and I think that I make great ones. I've always been good at making sure they look cool and are wearable and accessible even when they're insane.” This connection is already starting to create wonderful things.