As the internet becomes an overflowing pool of creativity and being famous is anyone’s game, how the hell are you supposed to feel special? Chloe Messer, the founder of Hat & Spicy delivers the giant fluffy cherry on top of your carefully created personality, served with a side of a sweaty night out. A rainbow of faux fur was just about coming through the screen as I chatted with Chloe over a typically broken Zoom call, revealing the story of how hiding her ugly walls led to this fuzzy frenzy of bespoke new-era headwear.
June 20, 2022
text TIFFANY YEBOAH
interview ALICE SIMPSON
photography MELANIE LEHMANN & KYLE SVEN
I came across your work through Instagram and your hats immediately caught my eye because of the pure drama, but after scrolling shortly I noticed that your earliest post was just a few months ago, in October of last year. How long have you been making hats?
“I work in costume for film and TV. I’ve been assisting a designer for 4 years now and when we used to do music videos, we would make props because there was never any budget. It was always very crafty. Every time we did a job like that I enjoyed making something. Then, last summer, I covered an old hat in orange fur. My friend saw it and took it to a festival where she was approached by loads of people. She came back and said: “Chloe, I don’t think you understand how many people want this hat, you should make some more.” So, I made more, gave them to my friends as birthday presents, they wore them to festivals, they had the same situation and since then I haven’t stopped!”
So, this all started with that one orange hat, do you still have it and is there a deeper story behind it?
"This is the first hat I made and underneath it’s just a sun hat. The story starts with my spare room, a studio room for my styling job and the clothes that I hoard. But in that particular room, we can’t paint our walls so I bought ten metres of this crazy orange faux fur fabric and I covered the whole room to make it funky. Then, I realised I had leftover fur and I thought why not put it on a hat. At the time I had this sunhat that I hated lying around from a recent job. I didn’t want to do anything else with it.”
As I saw her eyes light up while telling me this story I caught a glimpse of how these hats can transform a world. Naive experimentation and the desire for over-the-top aesthetics can lead to greatness. This process of transforming her creative space into a wearable piece, that then turned so many heads is what makes it feel so organic. The resourcefulness of this young designer stood out. We love an upcycling queen.
This is a publication from Garment Magazine, made by students from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. You can find The Future Through Headwear issue in stores on the 29th of June!
for bigger personalities
Your brand name stands out, how did you come up with it?
“It was a time pressure thing. I was emailing this guy from Depop and I realised I needed to make an Instagram”. While lying in bed I was thinking of a play on words, it was either Hat & Spicy or That’s Hat, which is a word play on the popular Paris Hilton quote “that’s hot”. I didn’t want to use my name in case everything goes to shit.”
I often find exciting new designers on social media and Instagram in particular, did this play any role in the creation of your brand?
“Yes, it did. When I was younger I used to just go on my laptop and scroll through Tumblr. Now, I can’t lie, I just use Instagram for everything. I don’t even buy magazines anymore. I used, to but not anymore.”
Your design approach is based on research and intuition, so in that way, you’re making bespoke hats, right?
“Yeah, that’s the route I want to go down rather than just sending out five of the same hat. But, if I do that, I want to do drops so that it’s more of an exclusive thing. I would hate to go to a festival and turn around and see someone in the same hat. However, I have made three of the green and yellow ones, people just keep asking for them but I don’t want to have more than ten out there in the world. I don't want my hats to be too exclusive in the typical sense, I just want them to be individually your thing - exclusive for you as a person.”
From what I’ve seen, Hat & Spicy has already been seen on the heads of some influential figures, how have you gained this exposure?
“I had one of my works in Jax Jones’ music video, which was amazing. I’ve had some drag queens, Self-Esteem (the singer) wearing my designs and a couple of them are currently out right now on a shoot for a DJ. Because of my job, I know quite a lot of stylists and follow their work through Instagram or music videos to see if I would want to assist them. So, I came across Jax Jones’ stylist, Rhiannon. I followed her, and she followed me back and messaged me straight away. She was looking for a hat that weekend for Jax Jones’ music video and I was actually in front of the TV making a hat at the time so I sent her a pic, she said it was perfect so I finished it up and sent it as soon as I could.”
I can’t help but hear the phrase “big hats for big personalities” in my mind. Why are these figures so drawn to your hats?
“I think because they’re loud, uniquely custom, so it feels special. They’re just fun. Performance artists need to have a big look and a statement piece. I make them for people to have fun in, look funky and party in. My hats are more camp than cool, sometimes people want to have a crazy, silly outfit with a hat to match.”
photography by MELANIE LEHMANN
photography by KYLE SVEN for Slippage Magazine
As Chloe explained this relatable fear I’m sure so many of us share, I began to understand the distinct importance of personalisation in her process. The way she described catering to her customers so attentively, there lay the care she originally applied to the creation of her friend’s birthday gifts. This care now allowed her to befriend customers all over the world.
How do you usually describe what you do?
“It’s cringey and I keep doing it whenever I’m drunk because I’m trying to get people to follow me when I’m out. I just go: “Hiii, do you like hats?” and they’re all like “yeah I love hats”. Then I usually just say “I make big, stupid hats, follow me” and then they’re forced to on the spot.”
Are you a self-taught seamstress?
“Yes, but I’m really lucky that my mum is super crafty. For DIY music video projects, I would just ask my mum for advice. After I started selling a few hats I went to my mum’s for the weekend and asked her to help me level them up and make them look more polished. She sat me down for the weekend and taught me a few sewing techniques.
I couldn’t help but warm to the genuineness of this; being taught a craft by someone dear to you is surely just as valuable as taking an official course or degree.
An essential aspect of education today comes from the copious amounts of information available on the internet, providing opportunities to so many aspiring designers. Has this made hat-making more accessible to you?
“We’re so lucky to have the internet and social media because it puts you on the platform to get your products out there. No one’s checking your resume on Instagram. I’m very thankful for it.”