Black Tulip Hats; Hats of the Gone World.
I heard a car that most definitely was not a new car; and not in the way an old car makes a sound that triggers you to think: ‘damn, there is something wrong with that car,’ but the kind of presence found in the warm hum of a record player. I knew this had to be him, Braeden.
Sitting at a table outside a local coffee shop, in Victoria’s Chinatown, I am greeted by a man that could very-well have been a product of the 70’s, transported through time. Braeden Paterson stands with shoulder-length hair drifting in the swift ocean air, of course, from underneath his own custom hat.
Paterson began his Millinery practice through a traditional apprenticeship with Samantha-Tara Mainville, of Heirloom Hats. Outside of her formal design training at Lasalle College, Mainville apprenticed under a notable Montreal milliner who has designed hats for countless stars; most famously, one of her hats was featured in the movie “The Secret Window,” worn by Johnny Depp. Continuing through trial and error, and the occasional phone call to Mainville in Montreal, Paterson gives a practice of the past new life; much like the repurposing of vintage felts and found objects from his travels, used to make his hats. “Sometimes I will see something, something from nature, and I imagine how it could fit on a hat,” says Paterson. The man, who finds great joy pursuing the countryside, amidst livestock and tall grasses, joins the landscape around him, to his practice: incorporating blossoms and grasses found while adventuring, into his hats.
“Just a few minutes down this road is the spot,” he says, as we approach a farmer's field, abundant with tall grasses and cows. “We shot some of the photos for the website here. It really fits with the hats, ‘country,” he explains, while sorting through the hats kept in the trunk of his vintage vehicle. Each hat can be found in a simple white hat box, stamped with his logo. Hopping over the white farmer’s fence and into the thick bush, Paterson searches for the perfect spot to showcase his latest creation; a brown hat that airs an unknown story of its own, from a time far beyond our reach. After careful placement of the hat on the tree-trunk post, Paterson pulls out his film camera. With its shutters blinking in unison with the sun that peeks through the swaying willows, you can almost hear the voices of the past: the people, or person, who perhaps wore the hat, prior to its repurposed form.
After the magic shot is captured, we return to the vehicle, where we are graced with long winding roads, fastened tightly to sparkling coastlines. It is here, where the essence of Paterson is found. Fallen from the glove-compartment, down onto the burgundy interior of the car, sits Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s, Pictures of the Gone World. Acting as a prominent voice of the wide-open poetry movement of the 50s’, Ferlinghetti merged poetry to the political and social issue of his time. “That book has been with me for a very long time,” he says while glancing at with a smile. Countering the elite ring of poetry and the arts, Ferlinghetti, created his own brand of literature; something romantic, more approachable and yet, highly individualized.
With hats born of a mind parallel, Paterson’s one of a kind hats stand as individualized poetry. “No hat is ever the same. Sure, some of the inspiration comes from existing hats, but really, they are all unique,” he says while driving. Separate from inspiration found in literature, he draws from the style of iconic musicians such as Bob Dylan. Drawing continuously from the past, Paterson gives new light to old materials: giving these hats of a gone world, a home in the current. “It’s a beautiful thing to give the old a new life. It all adds to the story, and really, they all have a mind of their own,” he says as we slip from the countryside, onto the highway.
Left with a sunset slipping into the Pacific Ocean, on a ferry back to the mainland, I begin to question how we have become so removed from the stories and sources of our garments: much like systems of food, we consume unconsciously, in a constant state of disconnect. When we look at the fashion industry, particularly fast and disposable fashion, one thing remains consistent; a deep separation between the stories generated by the hands who take part, and great environmental damage do to the lack of sustainable practices. For Paterson, creating hats are part of his lifestyle, but on a much larger scale, they are part of the solution. While these may be hats of the gone world, they are hats founded in a positive, constructive state of mind. Wildly unique, Black Tulip Hat’s successfully merges the visual romance of fashion, with the “leave no trace,” travelers’ mentality.
Shop now at www.blacktuliphats.com