MEET SF HAT COMPANY
Based in San Leandro, CA, Sally Kellman along with her husband Stefan Schinzinger run SF Hat Company. We caught up with Sally to learn more about what goes into the couple's design process and any advice for becoming a "hat person." Join us for our annual Holiday Artisan Fair at the de Young to meet Sally and Stefan and shop their newest collection blending style and durability.
Please tell us about your company!
Our hats have appeared on the cover of Elle, but our design philosophy is informed by Stefan’s and our team’s experience at The North Face and being a part of the East Bay active wear community. Our inspiration is often traditional or even historical, often inflected by Sally’s interest in California and the West. The realization often bridges fashion and gear, featuring cutting-edge technical performance materials. Our velvet crusher hat is suitable for the opera, yet it has a Gore-Tex liner that will not admit a drop of rain, and it’s crushable and machine washable. Our classic Panama styles feature moisture-wicking sweatbands, packability, and top rated UPF50+ sun protection.
How did you learn to make hats?
At first we made it up as we went along. As we learned, we hunted down rare vintage sewing machines and hatting tools, interviewed retired hatters, and purchased inventories of antique hat ribbon. Now that we are adept at traditional hatting, we’re still designing, still making it up—creating a fusion of traditional and forward styles and techniques, making tools and templates to realize our creative vision.
Just how much time and effort does it take to make a hat?
Depends on the hat. Just to start, some hats are blocked multiple times—first one shape, then another, then hand shaped—all before we start applying trim. And don’t forget the craftsmanship that goes into some hat “bodies” before we receive them. Panamas, our specialty, are hand woven by artisans at the equator, where sun protection is a practical necessity. It’s extraordinary that hand woven hats can be so uniform and yet each is a bit different.
Is there such a thing as a “hat person?” What qualities describe him or her?
Some people love to wear hats, not sure if there is a common denominator. For one example, we know a San Franciscan who loves our striped felt cloche. She wears every color combination, and there are many. And another phoned us from Pagosa Springs in Colorado to replace a Riverz expedition cowboy hat she had worn almost daily for 17 years until it was falling apart (we say, “loved to death”). She told us she preached in church in her hat, (and we say we don’t make church hats!) and once she went to bed not realizing she was still wearing it.
What would you say to someone who’s thinking of adding hats to his or her wardrobe?
Go for it! We’ll help you find a hat that becomes you.
Do you have a special memory from ever visiting the de Young?
Well, since you asked—the 1979 King Tut show. I had seen a version of the show in Paris with my mom and was profoundly moved by the power and beauty of the mask. I was so excited at the opportunity to see it again.
Where is your favorite place in the museum?
What comes to my mind is the entry to the exhibit space downstairs, no art there but delicious anticipation.
If you weren’t designing, you would be…
I would write about an elopement and gun battle in Stefan’s family in Texas in the 1920s, think “Romeo and Juliet in spurs.” Stefan would be designing, if not hats, perhaps adaptive devices, a return to his first design career in the Bay Area.