For Leanne Ayache and her husband, musician Tibor Gyapjas, from Carlisle Hats, wearing a fine hat is something that not only ‘finishes off your outfit’ but also a way for their customers to make a statement and really stand out. It is also why they moved into creating bespoke hats in their studio in Melbourne.
“We had a store in Balaclava on Carlisle Street for about 18 years selling imported hats, and people would come to us and say do you happen to know a hat that’s black with polka dots or something customized, so we decided we would start making hats,” explains Leanne.
“We were making and repairing hats then we started to produce a label of all handmade hats from our studio here in Melbourne where people can try on the hats. They can completely design their dream hat, and we make it for them.”
Carlisle Hats are unique not only for being completely handmade in Melbourne, but also for their clever use of colour and decorative elements that add the wearers’ personality to each one.
“My husband is also a professional musician, he plays the trumpet and plays in lots of different bands,” says Leanne.
“He’s old school music, so all the old school musicians like to come here to get a unique hat that stands out. They want something that not everyone else is wearing, they want to stand out on stage. We do lots of really different and interesting things.”
Leanne says that having an embroidery machine also allows them to ensure each hat they make is personalised.
“We also have an embroidery machine, on the sweatband inside the hats we ask people if they’d like their name or something that’s really special to them embroidered on the hat, and we do that for nothing,” points out Leanne.
“We also make the only Australian made baseball cap from scratch. That’s why we invested in this embroidery machine because we do a lot of embroidery on our baseball caps but also something special on our felt brimmed hats.
“We also do marble dying, we do acid dying on the felt, we can do it in two or three different colours, tie-dye hats, just something really different, rather than a block colour you can have a hat that tells a story. They’re really beautiful, so people love them.”
Colour is the signature of Carlisle Hats, not only because the brand’s customers want it, but also because Leanne is somewhat obsessed with colour.
“I really love it when I use a lot of colour, I’m the creative part of the business, I mean I make the hats as well but I like to be creative when people come here, and they say ‘I don’t know what to do’ and I say why don’t you…, that sort of creatively I love,” Leanne says.
“I also love it when people come here and try on the hats, and they come alive and they look at themselves in the mirror and they say ‘omg I love it’ and they send us messages from all over the world and they’re really thankful. I just love to be doing what we’ve always really wanted to do.”
According to Leanne, both her cultural background, and that of Tibor, has also influenced her creative work.
“My husband is Hungarian and I’m Lebanese, we’ve recently had a new logo designed by one of our amazing friends, and he talked about the colours … the colours of the Hungarian and Lebanese flags just happen to be red, green and white, and so he was thinking of incorporating them. We thought that it would be really amazing to do that.”
Colour remains one of the most important inspirations for Leanne: “We use a lot of colour, I’m right into colour and I’m not sure if that’s part of my heritage [or not] … but I know when I visited Lebanon, the women were gorgeous and wearing a lot of colour so maybe that visit for me encouraged me to go into the dying and use of colours.”
Leanne and Tibor are super excited to be involved in the Revival Runway We Are Melbourne fashion runway show, happy to be showing their creations off.
“I think it’s a really fun thing to do,” says Leanne when asked about being part of the runway show. “I really enjoyed the initial photoshoot, that was great fun. I really enjoyed working with the models, I really love seeing the creations, the clothing and seeing how I could match it with the hats and make the outfits complete.
“That’s what I think, that a hat finishes off an outfit. It was just so much fun and I really enjoyed being a part of it.”
To discover more about Carlisle Hats, go to carlislehats.com.au, and follow the brand on Instagram at @carlisle_hats. To make a studio appointment, go to carlislehats.com.au/hat-fitting-and-design-studio-appointment
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