The Fashion Folk S01 ep18 : Eric Javits, Javits Fashion, [New York]
Interview with Eric Javits
It has been a journey to say the least because we really don't have a tradition in this country of people using their hands and making that their livelihood. So I have had to find people where I could and have had to train some of them and almost everyone you know that I have in my manufacturing plant has been trained in-house.
Eric Javits is a brand that I have developed over a period of more than 20 years
at this point.
It started with the idea of hats as head sculpture because I was a fine arts major,
I went to Art School and studied drawing, painting and sculpture and I became
interested in the idea of you know head sculpture, how various forms would flatter
or alter the shape of a woman's face.
KM: Hats are such a personal, unusual little corner of the fashion universe. Why
Hats and why not the whole thing?
I was interested in the kind of statement that you know a woman puts something
on her head and whether it is for adornment or function it makes a statement.
KM How did you tackle your first hat? Did you read a book about it or did you...
Well I had a friend that I was spending some time with and she had a sewing
machine and she showed me how to thread and all that. She had some fabrics,
so I just kind of used what I had access to and made a hat. A cut and sew
pattern hat. Initially hats were more 'party hats' they weren't exactly what I am
focusing on today - which is a much more sober approach, more...
KM: So you were more like theatrical in other words?
A little bit theatrical but not totally over the top. Still anyone could have worn them
and felt comfortable in them. The first one I think was soft and I think it was a
pleated satin and some velvet. One design kind of led to another. I mean, I guess
it is a parallel to my painting process where one canvas can lead into another, it is
kind of an evolution and sometimes you take bigger steps than at others.
My first accounts were basically the department speciality store chains, like Saks
5th Avenue, Bonwitt Teller, Bonwitt Teller doesn't exist now, but Bergdorf
Goodman was the second store I sold.
KM: Was it difficult convincing them that you were ...
In those days the industry was a lot more forgiving. They were very excited
actually, seeing a young person you know interested in doing creative things and
were actually very supportive. The first store I sold to they brought them in and
they sold them all within a couple of days and then called me up and so then I had
to figure out how to make more.
It has been a journey to say the least because we really don't have a tradition in
this country of people using their hands and making and being that interested and
being excited about a craft and making that their livelihood. So I have had to find
people where ever I could who had the apptitude and train some of them and
almost everyone you know that I have in my manufacturing plant has been trained
Shortly after that I started designing some hats for Carolina Herrera's runway
shows around 1984 and when Caroline Rome was in business I did a couple of
her collections. Sometimes you come up with ideas that you know the designer
would not have thought of at all, or a silhouette. I remember one time I did some
hats for Donna Karan’s collection and I showed here something that I had done
that was completely off on a different tangent than she had anticipated and it
After 1995 I developed a material called "squishy" which is a registered trademark
material and so
Squishy! And Squishy it looks just like a natural straw braid but it is a man made
fibre and it permits packing, rolling and folding.
KM: Why did you call it Squishy?
Because that it was what you can do with it. You can squish it and it comes back.
KM: How do you get the form in the hats?
With roping it on to a wooden block and steaming them with steam irons and
KM: Oh you are kidding, so you guys go to that sort of trouble.
We are doing it the hardest way possible.
KM: really, but why? Why?
Because I like the feel of it better; the stamping flattens the material
KM: Yeah you're right
So I like the quality and the feel of everything being hand done the old fashion
KM: What are the modern hat making techniques? What do you do today?
Well I am using a lot of man made 'ferries' a lot of nylon and polyester. There isn’t
the degree of workmanship in a hat today you know that there was 40 or 50 years
… and I don't think it is necessary - it is not how people dress, it doesn't serve
their lives. I am trying to make hats completely modern, completely accessible. I
don't want hats to be up on a pedestal somewhere. I want the customer to see a
hat and kind of get it.
I do a lot of sketches and diagrams. I cut and stitch things myself to make the
patterns and I carve a lot of hat blocks myself.
KM: Now when you say that you carve a the hat blocks yourself - do you go to the
forest and look at a tree...
No, no I order blocks of wood in almost the correct size and shape and I start to
carve with chisels, files and sandpaper.
Yes, once I think I'm done, I block something and try it on a lot of heads and alter
things from there.
KM: What is the difference between handbags and hats?
Most of the time you use the same material. So they have to be light weight, soft,
crushable, functional, enough pockets, cell phone pocket, key clip holder, water
KM: So the utility again.
Utility underscores everything.
KM: What about the shape and all that?
The shapes have to be easy, most of the time I am just doing more fluid kind of
shapes or bucket shapes. Trial by error, I mean that has been my experience. I
mean sometimes it can take 6 months to refine one design. Sometimes I start out
working on something and I might work on it for 2 months and then be dissatisfied
with it and put it to the side. Then a few weeks later I think of something that just
brings the whole thing together. Maybe it could be some leather pipping, maybe it
is piece of hardware, maybe there was something wrong with the proportion of the
strap in relationship to the body of the bag. It is a little bit more of a challenge for
me than the hat designing thing because I am not really as experienced in it...I
have 4 years of experience in it now, and the initial ones were all done with a row
on row stitching of the braid which are how my hats are made. So it begins with a
block, in exactly the same way our hats are made
KM: Oh so you are actually doing it, you are making handbags like that?
Handbags on blocks
KM: You're kidding?
KM: I don't think I have ever heard of anyone doing that. I don't they do it like
And my first summer bags were all done like that. My first winter bags actually
were made that way too and then I decided to block the felt into a bag shape and
there were no seams and I had a seamless bag with a handle on it. I actually
applied to register that design too because it was like kind of a breakthrough.
Things with seams are usually crocheted or knitted. Not moulded.
An oval shaped face can wear the most shapes of hats but other faces can have
a little more trouble. If you have a very narrow face you really need a larger brim
and not a tall crown, because a tall crown will elongate a narrow long face. But
you can tell if something is really in harmony it just clicks. That person looks
better with the hat than without it - it is amazing, it is like a hairdo.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Eric Javits, Javitis Fashion, New York