Hat stands, vintage luggage, fabrics and accessories… There was no resisting the tiny shop front I stumbled on last week, right opposite Palazzo Pitti, so in I went followed by South African videomaker #mymark. The diminutive atelier and outlet is HQ to Antonio Gatto, gentleman and contemporary milliner. Born in Calabria, Antonio moved to Florence many moons ago to find work in the theatre business, creating sets and costumes, and slowly found his way into hat design. There is something curiously worldly and genteel about him, so much so that our encounter felt like it should have taken place during a Grand Tour rather than one of my usual Grand Schleps.
Antonio patiently explained to me how his hats come into being, how he nurtures them, relishing every step of the creative process. Poetry to wear. ‘A hat is far more than a simple accessory,’ Antonio explains. ‘A hat is ruthless, it highlights your good points but also shows up defects and emphasises expressions.’ What inspires him are the materials themselves. He sources only the finest wherever they’re made: straw and rabbit fur felt from various parts of the world (artisanal Shanghai straw is the only material imported from China, he stresses), linens from Ireland, wools and silks from northern Italy’s excellent production. And only once a hat is completed does he put something down on paper as a kind of post-design reference for his very undigital archive. His absolutely unique creations sell from around €120 upward, depending on the materials, the complexity and the time that went into them. Needless to say, he has a long, international client list, and as of last week I’m on it too 🙂
Hats are unforgiving, they accentuate good and bad features