There’s no denying the millinery world’s sudden hold on fashion, as well as broader pop culture. From Mad Men to Gaga, hats and headpieces are everywhere. I feel like we’re constantly finding new milliners we like, new headpiece concepts we’re intrigued by, and new ideas about how to incorporate them into our wardrobes.
That’s why I was so excited to spend some time with Brooklyn-based millinery I Love Factory. Duo Christopher Garbushian and Laurel St. Romain have designed hats for a ton of celebrities (including the aforementioned Lady) over the last two years. They’ve also received plenty of editorial attention, from Japanese Nylon to Teen Vogue to Tavi, who wore their cone hat in Pop. I Love Factory’s pieces have even appeared on Gossip Girl.
Garbushian and St. Romain live in this magical apartment/work studio in the Ditmas Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. They call this space the Tree House, and as you can see from the images, it’s a pretty spot-on descriptor. Living and working in one spot is pretty difficult, but Garbushian and St. Romain have managed to be roommates and business partners by creating a space that’s open and inspiring.
From the framed still of the tights and shoes Proenza Schouler’s Fall 2008 runway to Grey Gardens-inspired paintings created by their ex-intern, Scummy, it’s a wonderland for hat makers, that’s for sure.
(PS, my questions are bolded, Laurel‘s answers are in plain Roman style, and Chris’ answers are italicized.)
Fashionista: First of all, this is really yummy, with the blueberries…
Laurel: I love blueberries and champagne, or strawberries and champagne.
It’s really good… let’s start with how you guys met.
Chris: We met through mutual friends, actually. I was on tour at the time and I came home for…
Fashionista: What were you on tour for?
Chris: I was working on event marketing promotional marketing and I was traveling around the U.S. So I was in New York only for like a couple of weeks at a time and one of the times that I came home, Laurel had just recently moved here to New York and she was hanging out with a group of people that I knew and she knew them from Texas. I knew them from other friends. And that’s kind of how we met. We met through them pretty much. We got introduced and we were kind of like friends instantly.
Laurel: We made out the first time we met.
I think we did.
We could never do that now, though.
Yeah, I mean, now we don’t do that… We were both crazy. At the time, that we met, I was like a crazy party kid.
How old were you, like 21?
No, no, this was maybe like three years ago. It was kinda recently.
That’s so crazy. I thought you’d known each other for like ten years.
We met a little before, but you [to Chris] left in between. So it was like I knew you, and you knew me, but we didn’t get to hang out until you came back.
And for the first year, it was only when I was back that we’d see each other. But yeah, that’s how we met.
And how long was it before you guys decided to do something together?
I knew that she was really creative, and I’d seen a lot of stuff she’d done when she was living in Austin. And I really liked it, and I wanted to do my own thing. We had talked about it for a while.
We were in a Bob Dylan concert in August of 2008. And maybe it was Bob Dylan; we just wanted to do something.
Did you make out after that?
(Laughing) No, we’d already stopped by then. That was only in the beginning.
Let’s see…When that happened, it was the end of 2006, when we first met, and by the time we’d figured out we wanted to start I Love Factory, that was the Bob Dylan concert in the summer of 2008. So that was a ways after.
Chris, you collected hats growing up. Laurel, did you collect hats as well?
I didn’t. I had no interest in hats whatsoever. Until recently.
What’d you want to do before that? Were you a designer, or…?
I originally wanted to do interior design. I always loved that.
I can see that, from this place.
Yeah. I love that. I wanted to do more than decorating even, just interiors like the actual set-up of interiors…like, where’s the kitchen going to go, where’s the bathroom going to go. I don’t know, I kind of got sidetracked by aesthetic things. And I did want to do clothing design, but I feel like a lot of people are doing that right now. If I was going to do it, I wanted it to be something really special. But I just don’t really feel there’s a market for it right now.
And Chris, did you always want to do hats?
I can honestly say that yes, I was always collecting hats since I was really young, but I never had any idea that you could become someone who made hats. The word wasn’t even in my vocabulary yet. I really had no idea.
Tell me the story of how you came up with the name I Love Factory.
We were sitting on this couch, but at the time it was facing this way and the TV was over here—
Which was the worst setup.
…And she had kind of just moved in, pretty much. And after we went to that Bob Dylan concert, we were like, “We’re going to start something. We’re going to start doing headpieces and hats, we’re going to start making things.”
Because we made them just for fun, just to go with my outfits when we would go out. Like, a big giant heart, or just something stupid. We were like, “Let’s do that, but let’s do it right.”
We need a name, we have to have a name, and we couldn’t think of anything. We were naming, like, cruise ships. Like one of the names we thought of was “Purple Majesty.”