(La Touché is wearing the Heavyweight Shawl Collar Coat in Midnight Navy)
La Touché, aka Mr.Hat (@_mr.hat), is a renowned British hat restorer, marketing and events producer, and brand consultant from London living in New York. Treating hats like his patients, he performs surgery on them, restoring them to their former glory.
How did you get into restoring hats?
I got into restoring hats after seeing the magical transformation my mentor Christine Campbell (a renowned British Milliner) do to one of my late grandfather’s old hats. She took something that was sentimental to me, something that seemed frail and unwearable and restored it to its former glory. Knowing that something I hold dear to me was able to be preserved is what ignited my passion for hat restoration. Under Christine's guidance, I learnt many unique techniques. The rest was just practice and loads of experimenting. Even till this day I find myself being inspired by my mistakes.
The intercut process that goes into making and restoring a hat is one of precise skill. It’s a craft that requires imagination, concentration and precision. Restoring hats to its former glory is an art form in its own right. I use skills and equipment that date as far back as 1860. I work with a specialist steamer and hat brush to refresh the hats and extensive handwork is required to re-block and transform each hat into its new shape. Like that of an artist I am able to recreate what I see.
You recently moved from London to New York, how are you adjusting to your new life? Is there anything you miss about London?
Although there are some similarities between the two cities, it has still been a little challenging adjusting. I assumed it would be a little more seamless but I was wrong. London is a busy city but New York is intense in every aspect of the word. Aside from family and friends and CookDaily, I miss certain snacks, free health care and the convenience of having [the rest of] Europe right next door to explore. But I am enjoying my New York experience. I appreciate how raw, unfiltered, loud and unapologetically bold and in your face New York is. It’s like the older cooler brother of London. I like that New York keeps me on my toes; it’s a real beast but it’s grooming me for the better. It’s only been a year, but I am already seeing some changes in me especially with my self-confidence. I am learning to plan and prepare and take on big opportunities head on. I’m excited for my future here and I want to continue to build, connect and share my story.
What is HATSONLY and why did you start it? How was your most recent HATSONLYNYC event?
Established in 2013 HATSONLY™ is an offline platform that creates immersive hat experiences for hat enthusiasts and artist alike.
HATSONLY™️ started with my own frustration in not being able to properly express my uniqueness in regard to the London venue and club dress code restrictions. It was here that the idea for an all-inclusive, bespoke night came into fruition. My aim is to constantly push the status quo through authentic storytelling of the creative process artists endure, while inspiring unique individuals to express themselves in the truest fashion. Through multi-sensory installations, performances, and workshops, I present a new way to connect to hats with creativity, culture, and community. I use my events as a platform to shine the light on unrecognized artisanal talents that are often overlooked.
One of the attendees described my last HATSONLYNYC as a “beautiful circus” and I couldn’t agree more. The exquisite decor of the Soho Grand Hotel club room was the perfect backdrop for this experience, but it was nothing without the fabulous guests who really made an effort to wear hats that truly reflected their personalities. I spotted a sushi inspired headpiece, colorful top hats, custom-made hats, hats from the ’40s, and even a wide brim hat that was at least two feet wide. I had the talented Bianca Picarelli of @looksfordinnerparties illustrate attendees in their hats, capturing the playful essence of the person’s personality. Guests were invited to interact with Brooklyn-based hat-maker Paolo Votano of NTTE hats, who was making a skull-shaped hat live, blocking it all by hand to create a masterpiece that looks like it belongs in a museum. It was definitely the best way for me to celebrate my first year in New York by making my mark here the only way I know best.
Any exciting projects coming up this year we should know about?
I’ve been using my time here in New York to experiment and challenge myself to try something different, so I’ve been working on a few behind-the-scenes projects that will soon come into fruition. I am also continuing to work on myself and focus on more personal projects, like my first-ever children’s book; it’s been a long time coming but I’m really excited to finally go live soon.
What does Ben Sherman mean to you?
When I think of Ben Sherman I think of quality. Growing up in a Caribbean household my father always made sure we dressed and carried ourselves a certain way. He always insisted that our clothes were washed, ironed and pressed, and that we looked presentable when we left the house. He was more about quality over quantity and made sure we looked after what we had. Even now as an adult I continue to buy quality over quantity not just with clothing but also as a hat restorer/designer. I am always looking for the highest quality possible.
How would you describe your style, what are key pieces you can’t live without in addition to hats?
I am very inspired by my grandfather and how he used to dress in Jamaica. He was always in a bespoke suit, smart shoes, and a hat. Jamaicans take real pride in how they look and it’s definitely something my grandfather and father have instilled in me. I guess I would describe my style as being old with a modern twist; I love buying vintage and mixing it with new pieces that I have, like my colorful Stance socks with my Saint & Birchley trainers and a custom shirt from South Korea. I can’t live without my vintage Casio calculator watch.