Changing the Hat Game
In the Divine Living Academy, I’ve seen more and more Latina women signing up, and have been receiving a lot of requests lately to translate my materials into Spanish. Being a truly global community of women entrepreneurs, this month I wanted to celebrate that by introducing you to some Leading Latinas who are up to big things in the world.
First up is the uniquely fabulous Gladys Tamez. Born and raised in Mexico, Gladys now runs an innovative fashion business in Los Angeles. Since launching in 2012, the Gladys Tamez Millinery has quickly become one of the hottest names in high-end, handmade hats. The entrepreneur’s covetable creations have landed in the pages of all your favorite glossies, and found fans among stars like Johnny Depp, Cher, Beyonce, and Kendall Jenner. Wanting to know more about how she did it, we caught up with Gladys to talk style, business, and what’s next for her growing fashion brand.
Tell us how the successful business you have today first came about.
I had a ready-to-wear line that had some success, but the challenges in apparel production are enormous. Between fickle and high maintenance retailers and the 2008 economic crisis, it all pointed to doing something that would allow me to focus on design and craftsmanship. That was my point of liberation. I found my calling in hats, which started with a visit to a 300-year-old milliner’s atelier in Spain. That chance inspiration was the thread I’ve followed ever since.
How did you go about launching and designing your business model?
I built my business on the premise that design leads and everything else follows. This requires honesty with yourself, in that just because you are creating you deserve recognition. If your work is strong and you build a clientele, you’ll develop loyalty to your creations. I never analyzed the market—I just built it and they came. The challenges come with the success. That’s when business plans became absolutely necessary.
What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs who want to break into the fashion business?
Knowledge is so important. Learn everything you can about whatever you are interested in doing. Not just what you want to do and already like, but the whole history of fashion from all its angles. Reading biographies and learning from others’ successes and mistakes is helpful and gives you perspective. In the end you need other people around you who inspire you and who complement your skill set.
Aside from hard work, what do you feel has been key to your success?
Having a clear vision of what I want to do is essential.
Talk to us about designing each new collection. Where do you start dreaming up a theme for the season?
It comes to me in different ways. I think having diverse interests, traveling, reading, discovering new and old music and seeing as much art as possible all help.
Did growing up in Mexico inspire your style and design sensibility? We’d love to hear a bit about the influence of your heritage.
I grew up in and around the “fiesta brava” in Mexico, and that pageantry, drama and regalia had a huge influence on me. On the other hand my mother owned a bookstore where I was exposed to French Vogue and pretty much became obsessed with fashion at an early age. I’m very proud to have just started selling my hats at the boutique “LOL Tulum” and for all the recognition I’ve gotten in Mexico. Mexico is magic, tragic and yet full of hope and positivity. My homeland and its diverse cultures continue to inspire and inform my designs.
What’s the process like of creating a bespoke hat with you?
This is the most satisfying aspect of my business. To create a custom one-of-a-kind hat and collaborate with my clients is a joy. The process starts with an appointment. Once they arrive at my atelier, we look at styles and discuss their ideas. Then we look at materials and accessories, and try on different looks. Everybody has a hat that fits their look, body, style, hair and face, and it’s not always what they think they want or what they think they will look best in. My job is to make a hat for them that complements and enhances who they are both inside and out, gives them confidence and gets them just the right amount of attention.
We love that you have a Zodiac collection. What inspired you to create that? Do you find people opt for the hat of their sign, or wear another?
People will pick a hat not based on their sign but on what speaks to them. The eye looks but the heart feels. The Zodiac and its mysticism has fascinated people for millennia and it just cast a spell on me, and I felt compelled to recreate the symbols and their meaning in a subtle way.
What’s next for your business? Where do you see the millinery in 5 years?
We just moved into a new space in the Los Angeles Arts District where I am expanding my product line to include luggage and other accessories. Importantly, I’m also developing an experience-based atelier for luxury bespoke clients that will be essential for any serious hat lover. This space and its creations will define who I am as a brand and as a company over the next 5 years.
There is no higher form of luxury than BESPOKE. Gladys Tamez Millinery offers by-appointment experiences to create one-of-a-kind hats designed uniquely for you. Providing impeccable service and exceptional results, the process of creating with Gladys is akin to what you might find on Saville Row in London or with a Parisian couturier. Visit her website to book an appointment at the Los Angeles atelier, or go for an ultra-premium house call available for both individuals and groups.
For more from Gladys Tamez and to shop her creations, visit: