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Denver-based Encounter Hat Co. claims to be “the most customizable, high-quality felt hat company in the world.” Whether or not that statement holds true, the three-and-a-half-year-old company, created by Kyle Theret and Parker Orms, spares no detail when working with clients to create their perfect topper. And in true Denver fashion, you can even enjoy some whiskey or wine while you watch the pair work their magic.
“We listen to every customer,” Theret says. “Because of the size of [our company], we’re able to figure out a way to make the most customizable hat—whether it’s made out of a material that nobody else uses, it’s a style that nobody else does, or it’s just a funky crease that you want and can’t find anywhere else. That’s what we’ll do.”
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5280 caught up with Theret before the pair heads to France for a collaborative show with Denver designer C.R. Lee at Paris Fashion Week, scheduled for September 29.
Why did you start Encounter Hat Co.?
KT: We started Encounter because it was a perfect ‘right place, right time’ type of situation. Both Parker and myself were moving back from Europe and both had just finished playing football so we were looking to get into something new and we both knew we wanted to get into fashion. His dad and grandpa used to make cowboy hats so we took a couple of old cowboy hats and reshaped them and people liked it. We went to a couple events and then decided this is something we can really do. We just started an LLC and went from there.
Why do you think it was important to start it here in Denver?
I think Denver is the hot city in the country right now. It’s a blend of many cultures and styles. There’s an influence from the Western world, which allows us to get a foot in the door in the fashion industry, in terms of the people of Denver, their style, and what they’re open to—people are very open to different fashions here. And [Denver] hasn’t even developed to its full potential yet.
What’s your design process like?
When we’re fitting [a hat] on somebody’s head, it really has a lot to do with their facial shape, their bone structure, their shoulder width, and their head shape. Sometimes the hat naturally is going to tell you the way to wear it based on when we stretch it and mold it to fit your head. It might put some natural curves in the brim, and then those match the structure of your face and your head. It [depends on] each individual, whether it’s a higher crown or a wider brim. We always try to be ahead and think of things that people haven’t done, or if we see things we like, maybe we put our own twist on it. You can find inspiration from everywhere, but hats have been around a long time, so it’s cool to try to do something new.
So you start from scratch every time?
Yeah, when people come in for an appointment, we start with a blank, open crown, wide brim hat and then we cut and mold from there. While we mold the hat, there are different things that go into it. Like which type of leather we want to use, which type of satin, and things like that. But to me, the real custom part is when the customer is actually there in person. They feel the hat on their head and we mold it to their head—that’s when the real uniqueness comes in.
How does the ordering process work?
You can order online or come in for an appointment. We figure out your head size, figure out the color you want, the quality, and the style…see which one fits best. They can have a whiskey or wine, sit down and just enjoy the process.
Is there a style that is more popular here in Denver?
Denver is that in-between where they’re not necessarily cowboy hats but they’re not short fedoras either. They’re what we call “lifestyle or fashion hats,” where it’s a mid-length brim and the crown is usually a teardrop and we can play around with it to make it look different depending on how intense the pinch is in the crown.
Have you had any famous clients locally or otherwise?
We’ve had some Broncos players, like Tremaine Brock—he got about 20 hats from us. We’ve done a few for the different Broncos players. We’ve done one for Drake’s dad.
What’s it like being a designer in Denver?
I love it. We’re pretty active in the community, and a lot of our friends are fellow designers. There is a little designer community out here, but it’s growing. There are very underrated designers [in Denver], like Crystal Lee, who we’re going to Paris Fashion Week with. Her stuff is really cool.
Speaking of Paris, how did that collaboration come about?
We have mutual friends and she mentioned to some of them that she was looking for a hat company to collaborate with for Paris Fashion Week. She just fell in love with our hats and we fell in love with her. It all worked out perfectly. I think we knew from the jump that it was going to be a great pair.
How did you choose the hats for your PFW presentation?
Our hats are basically gonna finish the silhouette of Crystal’s pieces. Her whole show is using distinct lines and beautiful shadows. Our hats are there just to complement that and be the finishing touch. It’s all black and white. It may sound like you can’t get too creative with it, but you really can. We love white and black, so we’re basically going to be molding the hat and designing the hats to compliment the style that she’s bringing to the show, which is kind of a modern, upscale street look.
Where do you see Encounter in the next five years or so?
Well, we hope within or by the end of this year that we will have our headquarters open on 38th and York. And then from there I just want to continuously grow and get some other shops open around the city. I think in a few years I want Encounter Hat Co. to be known as the custom hat company.