10-Second Studio Tour: Lola Hats

We’ve been thinking a lot recently about where our products come from, especially the clothing that we wear. Oftentimes, the answer can be horrifying—that $10 jersey tank top made in a sweatshop by outrageously underpaid workers; a pair of leggings sprayed with flame retardants and chemicals that destroy local ecosystems, etc, etc, etc. Still, it’s not all doom and gloom—sometimes, the desire to learn more about where your products are made can lead to unexpected, totally wonderful surprises. This is exactly what happened a few weeks back when Amy decided she’d like to know more about the maker of a hat she had just purchased. This hat:

amy_in_a_hat

Photo by Jorge de la Barra.

Amy is clearly loving that hat—and who wouldn’t? It’s downright fabulous. As it turns out, the hat was handcrafted at the studios of Lola Ehrlich, the Netherlands-born, France-raised milliner extraordinaire who currently calls Bushwick, Brooklyn home. Like Lola, her designs and studio are filled with life, energy, and seemingly endless creativity. Although quite large, the studio space is a cozy, glorious jumble of creative tools, inspirational images, objets d’art, and—of course—hats. Hats, hats, and then some more hats. I spent roughly an hour photographing Lola’s beautiful workspace, but I feel like I could have gladly spent all day. A veritable treasure trove — not just of beautiful things, but inspiring ideas — one gets the sense that this is what a studio space should be. Take a look at our 10-Second Tour above or check out all of the images from our visit after the jump! —Max

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meg

I WANT TO GO TO THERE. thank you for sharing! (p.s., you look fabulous, amy!)

Joanna

Oh my gosh I need that hat that Amy is wearing!

barchbo

I DIE! THAT HAT! Amazing! Amy, you look fabulous!

KD

I’m obsessed with her hats. I got one this summer and it goes everywhere with me!

Diane Cummings

Is that you, Amy? Love it!! Your smile is almost as big as the hat. Please do more on hats….they need to make a come-back!

Diane Cummings

Is that you, Amy? Your smile is almost as big as the hat! I love it. Please do more on hats – they need to come-back to our lives.

Ramona

My aunt made hats many years ago and I regret that I do not have one of her originals. What a wonderful place!

Julie

Normally straw hats are woven by hand. No machine can do it. Do you have info about that? That part of the hat is definitively not done in the beautiful north american studio… Just curious.

Meg Birmingham

Thank you for this lovely tribute to Lola’s studio. I am moved to add something:

As noted in the article, this studio is the complete opposite of a sweatshop. Someone could write a book about Lola and the committed, talented people who work with her, and who stay, in large part because of the supportive, creative atmosphere. Lola is an inspiring, dedicated person to work for. This is small business at it’s finest. (Happy July 4th!)

A few years ago I worked as a school nurse at a high school for students who were “falling between the cracks in the public school setting”. I’d shared stories about my students with Lola, who I’m lucky to say, is my sister-in-law. Lola was touched and intrigued and invited me to bring a group students to visit her studio. Twelve students and three staff traveled to Brooklyn by train from Northford, Connecticut.

We were all excited, but the visit surpassed anything we could have hoped or imagined. When we arrived, Lola escorted our group up to her studio by freight elevator. After a suspenseful moment when the elevator paused, several of us gasped when the doors opened revealing her beautiful, bright studio.

Before I had a chance to ask Lola to give us guidelines about what we should and shouldn’t touch, Lola said to the group “Please try on hats; try on anything you want.”

We spent a couple of hours joyfully trying on hats, learning about hat making, trying techniques, and embellishing felt berets, supplied by Lola. Everyone who worked there was kind and engaging. Lola spent time sitting on the sofa with individual students talking – no – listening to them share their thoughts, hopes, and dreams. The atmosphere was busy, focused, welcoming, and inspiring.

On the way home, the students talked about how respected they felt, how awesome Lola was, and how much they loved the hats and everything about the studio. Some said it was the best trip they’d ever taken. A few said it was the best day of their lives. All seemed awakened to the power of mutual respect, and the magic of possibility.

I tell this story, not to brag about my sister-in-law, but to say that this is the kind of venture we should be supporting when we spend our money. Lola teaches and supports meticulous craft. She employs a group of people who chose to stay because of the environment and the way they are treated. The hats are pricey, not because a business owner is getting rich, but because of the loving care, creative talent, and careful skill that goes into each piece.

I’ve always admired Lola’s artistic vision, personal charm, and old-world work ethic, but until I visited her studio that day, I never fully realized that through her work, and through this small studio, she makes the world a better place.

Tracy Krinke

Where can I buy the first over sized hat that Amy is wearing? I have a home near Calgary, AB, Can. as well as Jacksonville, Fl. USA Also, can you give me an idea as to what the price would be?

Ellie

What an inspiring space and fromthe sounds of Meg’s comment above, a remarkable group of people! I make hats from a much smaller and less impressive studio in my house in Warwick but I guess we all have to start somewhere! I’ve bookmarked this post for a quick boost on the days when it feels hopeless ;)

Regina

No one has mentioned how one can buy that amazing hat…please do tell!!!!!!

Ruth

Meg’s story about Lola and her studio is so inspiring. Thank you.

Jacquie

Who doesn’t love hats! What a wonderful place – thanks for sharing it with us Lola & Design*Sponge. :)

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