You may not have heard of hat designer Janessa Leone, but if you’ve come across recent paparazzi photos of Jessica Alba, you’ve definitely seen her designs. After scooping up two different styles, Alba has joined a handful of top-tier style bloggers as fans of Leone’s eponymous line of handmade fedoras. While Leone admits that having a celebrity following is exciting, she is taking the attention in stride. “It’s nice to see that what I am creating is getting a stamp of approval, and it’s more motivation to keep working hard and creating things that I believe in,” said Leone.
Inspired by a vintage hat she found in Paris, Leone launched her first collection nearly two years ago. “I possessed a certain confidence when I wore this hat and I knew I wanted to create hats that would give people a similar air,” she says.
With two collections under her belt and a third in the works, Leone is now hoping to use more than just stylish toppers to trigger that same feeling in her customers. She is setting her sights on a full lifestyle brand rooted in the quality craftsmanship and timeless designs that characterize her fedoras.
We recently chatted with the designer about fashion, running a business and, of course, hats.
JustLuxe: Have you ever faced any obstacles running your business? If so, how did you overcome them?
Janessa Leone: Oh man, every step of the way. I studied English in college, and had never even taken a business class in my life. I didn’t know what I was doing when I started, and I still don’t in a lot of ways. I am very fortunate to have friends in the industry and wonderful mentors. Whenever I am stuck I am not afraid to ask for help.
JL: Which hat from your current collection is your favorite and why?
Leone: I really love the Vera. It has a really cool downtown edge that fits my style perfectly. It also has a pretty funny way it came to be. I found a piece [of metal] off a broken belt when I was cleaning my closet out and I had an instant vision for it. I heated up the piece of metal over my oven stove and manipulated it to fit the hat. I sewed it to the hat with some leather scraps and went to a party that night. It’s our best seller and I laugh when I think of the unorthodox way it was designed.
JL: Where do you find inspiration?
Leone: I find a lot of inspiration in other works of art. I love to see people’s creations and be reminded that we are all living this life together. It’s really inspiring to me to see how different people express themselves and how unique we all are.
JL: Describe your target customer.
Leone: I design for the girls who are confident and chic, but who are too busy to spend hours on their outfits every day. I feel like hats are the best accessory to be effortlessly cool.
JL: What is a typical workday for you?
Leone: My studio is in my house, so as soon as I’m dressed and I’m equipped with coffee, I get to work. The day to day really varies. Sometimes there are heaps of shipments that need to be made, sometimes I have to go downtown for meetings with vendors, but mostly it’s a whole lot of emails.
JL: How do you stay up-to-date with fashion?
JL: Do you have any advice for people who want to launch their own business?
Leone: I think it’s important for people to remain well balanced in their business. It gets really hard and really stressful, but no matter how crazy it all gets, it’s important to stay true to your craft and to spend time and effort developing your creativity. There are always going to be hiccups and issues to deal with, but it’s important not to get worked up about the things you can’t control and focus your efforts on the thing that makes you unique.