Wearing a hat is a genuine statement of character and personality and no accessory enables you to change up a look or silhouette quite like it. Nobody understands this more than Kyle Theret and Parker Orms, owners of Encounter Hat Co, a customizable, high-quality, felt hat company that offers customers a barrage of bespoke hat styles to choose from.
The art of wearing hats has seen a precipitous decline and become elusive so most of us have resigned our heads to a hatless life. Being both functional and stylish, Encounter Hat Co is proving that hats are having a full resurgence. They come in handy on those bad hair days, they give us a touch of class and sophistication and, most importantly, hats have the surest ability to add an interesting and unique accent to your outfits while simultaneously boosting your confidence. Finding one that is well-fitted can be synonymous with finding your signature piece and Encounter Hat Co is doing just that with their customers — one hat at a time.
Theret and Orms are artists with a truly rare range of expression which reflects a deep personal passion for artwork when it comes to making the hats and the final product. We recently sat down with them to discuss what inspired them to be hat makers.
303 Magazine: First, for those readers who aren’t familiar with Encounter Hat Co, can you tell us about the company?
Encounter Hat Co: Encounter Hat Co. is a progressive thinking hat company that is introducing a whole new level of customization to the urban market while introducing the quality of the hats in the western world to create the best product for everyone from a first-time hat wearer to the most fashionable socialite in Milan.
303: How would you describe your hats?
EHC: Our hats are made of the highest quality material while being the most custom fitted hat one will ever have. The experience of seeing and feeling your hat being steamed, cut and shaped to your exact preference will make buying any other regular hat impossible.
303: What inspired you to design stylish hats?
EHC: After ending our careers in sports, we both moved back from Europe and had a desire to infiltrate the fashion scene and hats were our natural direction.
303: Could you tell us about your background and fashion and design experiences? How did you both get started in the fashion industry?
EHC: It all comes back to our own personal journeys from living in world fashion capitals to being a third-generation hat creaser. Using the experience and knowledge from the western hat world and our desire to create a unique quality product, we’ve been lucky enough to partner in various types of fashion shows, celebrity collaborations and private events while having our hats worn by people on almost every continent.
303: Is there a typical Encounter Hat Co customer?
EHC: Our most common customer is somewhere between 22-45 who is either in touch with the most modern fashion trends or somebody that is breaking out of their norm and stepping into the next level of personal confidence and expression.
303: Why do you think hats are such an essential fashion accessory?
EHC: We view hats as the shoes of the head; the finisher to the outfit. When you look at style and beauty, symmetry and uniqueness are key, so the visual appeal of a hat on a head is the aesthetic completion of any wardrobe.
303: What do you love most about Encounter Hat Co? What is the most enjoyable thing about your work?
EHC: The most enjoyable part of Encounter is the process. The feeling a customer gets when they put on the best fitting hat they’ve ever had makes it impossible to have a bad day at work. The fact that our job is to create something special that people enjoy is not lost on us and we value the opportunity to do so every time. We love that people wear our hats with their best outfit for the most important situations.
303: Where are the hats made? How do you ensure the quality of your hat production?
EHC: The majority of our hats and materials come from America, although we’ve had select hat bodies imported from Italy. We’ve created a network of hat blockers, leather makers and satin manufacturers to create a unique product. We ensure we have the best hat bodies to start with, then, while the customer is in front of us, we cut, shape and crease the blank canvas to everything from a cowboy hat to a fedora.
303: What do you think is Denver’s signature mark in the world of fashion and artisanry?
EHC: Denver has quickly become a hub for artists and creative individuals of all mediums. We believe that with this new found identity, Denver can also become a place that the coasts look inward for inspiration and direction. Denver is unique not only because geographically it is in the middle of the mainland, but also because of the ubiquitous nature of the residents living within. If the fashion follows the people, Denver will be a leader in the fashion world of the near future.
303: Could you briefly describe the process of crafting one of the hats you make?
EHC: Every one of our hats starts as a blank canvas, open crown wide brim body. From there we steam, cut and mold the hat to the exact specifications of our client. We do it all by hand, live, so the experience of creation is absorbed by us and the customer. It would be like if you went to Nike and they measured, cut and designed your shoe exactly to your foot, right before your eyes.
303: The fashion for wearing hats declined after the 1950s, but there has been a resurgence in recent years. What do you attribute this resurgence to?
EHC: The resurgence of hats can be attributed to the resurgence of quality in fashion. Everything from the internet to modern fashion trends, it has been easier for people to recognize quality. The classiness that is associated with wearing a felt hat is just as relevant to this generation as the people that wore hats in the past.
303: For those people who haven’t worn a hat before but are considering it, can you give any tips for choosing a hat for the first time?
EHC: Start with some research on the levels of quality within the hat world, you will immediately notice the difference. Then decide the occasions or situations you see yourself wearing the hat. Then go crazy and become hat connoisseur.
303: With such an array of hats on offer, how do you guide customers and advise them on a particular choice of hat that is suitable for their purpose and ensure they are the correct size?
EHC: For many, the quality and color is the thing they care most about. Every hat we make is fit perfectly to the head of the customer so the feel of a custom hat is not comparable to a hat off the rack. Some people want a hat to wear every day and some desire to make the biggest fashion statement they can. We make that happen.
303: What has your journey been like over the past few years?
EHC: Within three years, we went from creasing old cowboy hats at a few events to getting ready to open our 2000-square-foot headquarters right here in Denver. We’ve met challenges that were unexpected but have kept true to our vision and kept progressing. We have traveled to different countries, made hats for celebrities and professional athletes while connecting with the local market through events and collaborations with the best creative companies in the city.
303: What features of Encounter Hat Co make it different from other brands on the market?
EHC: The experience. When one walks in to buy an Encounter Hat, they will be met with the most customization and personalization of any product they’ve ever had. They can sip a whiskey or a glass of wine while the process is carried out live. It will be the most rewarding fashion experience a person will have.
303: Social media platform are a new showcase for designer brands. What do you think about the power of social media on buyers’ decisions?
EHC: Social media has created parody in fashion because now people can see an extensive range of styles from all over the world. It also allows content creators to introduce new marketing and branding techniques that can be useful as a business owner.
For us, social media is the hub of our content and the best way to introduce people to the company that may not have ever before. It is important to value social media while also getting out in the real world and becoming relevant within communities. Now, because of social media, there can be a pocket of people in a different country that “randomly” have your hats but that’s exactly how fashion trends start. Worldwide fashion can stem from a small group of teenagers in one random city and social media is the road beneath those wheels.
303: What is next for you?
EHC: The next step is finishing the build out of the headquarters in Denver and expanding our network. We want to become a signature destination within the city and for travelers visiting the state. Our goal is to keep expanding through the community and let the products speak for themselves. Look out for the new shop coming this summer!
All photography by Rebecca Grant.
Model Dana Martin.
Hair and Makeup by Oksana Starling.
Hats provided by Encounter Hat Co.
Styled by Koya Nyangi.