Carlisle Hats – An Australian Gem in the making
You can learn a lot about people in the way they prepare food for guests, when it’s done with love and instinct it always tastes better. Lamb shanks with vegetables on a cold Melbourne winters night sometimes feels like the essence of life.
Good fashion can be a lot like food. When it’s done from the heart, the wearing is a whole lot better.
Carlisle Hats is urban fashion made with soul and a natural extension to a Melbourne institution. For 16 years Carlisle Accessories in St Kilda, Australia was a shop where customers went to hear “the real thing” about what looks good on them.
“If a customer wanted something we would find it for them, if they weren’t quite sure I would give my opinion on what looked good, there were plenty of times my honesty cost me a sale, but it was impossible for me to be anything but totally upfront, because that was our approach to everything, we really care about customers”
Leanne Ayache was the constant of Carlisle Accessories, she managed the shop, thought, and tinkered with design, while husband Tibor Gyapjas hatched a plan to make a truly unique range of hats.
“We were selling hats for 16 years and in that time, we fell in love with hats, we had such a diverse customer base and we had a vision we couldn’t see anywhere so we decided to give it a crack, to design and manufacture our own hats based on the fabrics and styles that our customers love”
“We found the market did not offer much in the way of diversity, it’s all pretty well mass produced off a production line. We wanted to be in total control of the product and put our creative edge into our hats”
In the early days of the shop, Tibor started to repair some of the hats they sourced from overseas suppliers and then organically started to acquire the range of equipment needed to produce their own range.
“Over the years we repaired the hats, so we bought a steamer and then we got a bit more equipment before we knew it, we were making hats”
But before they made the switch from retailers to design & hat makers, there was whole lot of travel and learning. It was a creative journey that became a confluence of culture, fabric, technique, fashion and knowledge.
“We have travelled the world to find unique styles and techniques, taken a little from Bali, Indonesia, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Mexico, New York, Spain, Denmark, Italy and London”
“We went from designing hats for over ten years, sourcing the fabric and getting others to put together our design, to then making our own hats. It was a natural progression after gaining so much knowledge from so many different hat makers”
“What I loved was seeing the different cultures and the way that was expressed in hats. Hats are an extension of fashion because they also provide a need, whether it’s to keep the sun off or the warmth in. What was cool was the way different cultures saw that”
Since the Carlisle Accessories shop closed its doors early in 2021, Carlisle Hats online has taken over. The Covid lockdowns give Leanne & Tibor a breather from the constant retail pressure and with travel off the table, also sharpened their focus to set up all parts of the hat making operation.
“In lockdown number 4, I said to myself I’m going to hand dye in colours we can’t get the felts of, I was amazed about how my instincts took over and the results have been really unique, I love the process you get lost in it”
“It takes at least 5-7 days to produce a hand dyed felt hat, from picking out the material, trimming to size, then the hand dye process, when I put it in on the block after drying, the hat becomes alive its unbelievable”
Leanne thrives in colour and instinct, Tibor is a perfectionist in fine tuning the process of hat making.
Tibor Gyapjas is also one of Australia’s best trumpet players. He studied music at the Victorian college of arts and has worked as a session and a touring musician with the likes of John Farnham, Tina Arena, Isaac Hayes, Vanessa Amorosi and Guy Sebastian, he was also a leading player in the critically acclaimed musical “At Last” The Etta James story.
Music for Tibor starts with passion and then rolls into technique and practice. Hat making for him is very similar.
“It’s natural, automatic I get lost in the process, we both love seeing our designs come out in the fabric we choose and the colours and technique we apply”
Carlisle hats are known for their bold expression, but Tibor also likes to apply a personal touch to the more conservative styles.
“Not everyone is going to wear our more out there hats, we’ve got more neutral classic designs still with an individual look”
From 16 years of shopfront experience, Leanne knows what colour’s people love to wear
“When I wake up in the the morning I’m really into it, I turn the steamer on, get some music going and say what colour am I going to use today”
The current times we live in have proven so difficult for local businesses and have encouraged support for Australian made product.
Carlisle hats is a unique Australian brand just beginning to tell their story, it’s one well worth exploring.
The truth always lies in the wearing!