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Faces, places, treasures, and trends that caught our attention

Hat Trick
August 17, 2023

Where’d You Get That Hat? In Rhinebeck, of Course.
By ML Ball

Photos by  Ryan Lavine

 I dare anyone to step inside The Brooklyn Millinery Company, Dana Estelle Boisson’s breathtakingly gorgeous hat shop in Rhinebeck, and leave bareheaded. Classic fur felt fedoras. Straw sun hats. Boleros. Cowboy hats. Berets. They’re all there and they’re all fabulous. The hard part will be choosing just one.

A Staatsburg native, Boisson says she was always into fashion growing up, and making clothes. After earning a degree in apparel and textile science from SUNY Oneonta, she moved to Brooklyn in 2008 to attend Parsons for fashion design. So where did her passion for hats come from? Where else? “While I was at Parsons, I started making hats for my friends who are drag queens,” she explains, “and just loved it.”

After Parsons, Boisson made her way to FIT’s hat-making certificate program, where she learned to create true works of art for the head. She started her company (BKMC) in 2014 and has been making hats ever since. After the pandemic, she headed back north and set up shop at 71 Market Street in Rhinebeck.

“It’s my workshop and my studio. I make all the hats here,” she says. “On weekends, I’m open to the public. When people come in to get a hat, the first thing I ask them is, what are you going to use this for? Do you want to wear this every day or for a special occasion? It’s fun because it really runs the whole gamut, from utilitarian up to high fashion, that I get to play around with.”

And play she does. Using traditional millinery techniques, Boisson hand blocks every hat and personally crafts every detail. Elements are sewn by machine or hand, never glued. She sources many materials locally (such as feathers foraged from upstate New York), but also uses Panama straw hand-woven in Ecuador, silk ribbon from Paris, and beaver and rabbit pelts from Tennessee. Her particular joy is creating one-of-a-kind hats for customers, often with her own hand embroidery which is as exquisite as an Old Master painting.

Although hats for a time went out of fashion (JFK was seen making a speech bareheaded and that was that), they are now squarely on the upswing again. “You can feel it with supply chains,” Boisson says. “Supplies that used to be very available are now harder to get because there’s more competition for the material. There are a lot more hat makers in the industry now. In fashion, hats are an accessory that people are putting on more and more. And with the sun and climate change, people are using hats more as utilitarian items to shield their faces. And, it’s just a fun accessory. It’s a statement like a big belt where you can really express yourself.”

Because of the level of precision, craftsmanship, and genuine loving care that Boisson puts into her hats, each one takes about two to three months to produce. But for an item of wearable, durable art of this caliber, why should anyone be in a hurry? —