Like many self-employed creatives, hat designer Khia Mercer has had a bumpy 20 months due to the pandemic.
After launching her company Khia Tullae in the first quarter of last year, the Pennsylvania factory that she was using was forced to close temporarily in August. Mercer and her boyfriend, who works in finance, started hand-making the hats themselves in her Greene Street studio in New York, sourcing the materials from different places. She launched an e-commerce site Monday offering Panama style hats, fedoras and other toppers.
Shoppers can also schedule appointments to visit her in SoHo for a bespoke design. There, they will find three walls covered in hats. Mercer, who relocated to the U.S. from Australia about 10 years ago, ventured into hat-making as a second career.
Her selection of unisex hats are offered in a range of colors, and they are offered with various crowns, brims and silhouettes. Retail prices range from $300 to $450. A hat with a 7 1/2-inch crown and shaped like an asymmetric teardrop is a popular design, Mercer said.
Hat and cap stores are expected to see “a slight rebound” in the U.S., in the next five years, according to IBISWorld research. The $3 billion market has 10,261 businesses and employs 26,841 people. Mercer chalked up some of the renewed interest in hats to people’s eagerness to get dressed up again after months of lockdown-induced casual dressing.
Expecting the Pennsylvania factory that she uses to reopen midway next year, Mercer said she is using this time to experiment and improvise. But designs aren’t too out-there to help keep costs down.
People who haven’t worn hats before tend to be “a little bit nervous about how bold they can go,” Mercer said. But having people be able to try on as many hats as they like during appointments helps them to become more confident and gravitate to bolder shapes and styles, she said.