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Interview With Creative Director of Tom Smarte Hats

Allon Zloof, Creative Director of Tom Smarte Hats

Hey guys - I hope you are well and enjoying your weekend. I recently met up with Allon Zloof, Creative Director of Tom Smarte Hats and got to ask him a few questions. Honestly I've never met someone so hard working. It was a little difficult to arrange a meeting with Allon as he was in Pitti, Italy showcasing the hats and then in New York for fashion week. However he kindly made time for me once he was back in London. The brand it self is the epitome of luxury. Tom Smarte hats have something for everyone with classic designs accompanied by a modern twist.

1. What is the history behind Tom Smarte?

Thomas Smarte started making hats in Brixham, Devon in 1786. He had a son, named Thomas, that also became a hat maker and started trading with mainland Europe in 1812. The 4th generation and last of the Smarte dynasty, again named Thomas, moved the business from Devon to Luton in 1891, which at the time was the centre of British hat making. During the 1890s, my great-grandfather Elijah was taught by Thomas Smarte the finer art of hat making and those skills have since been passed down three generations of my family and now rest with me. 

2. What makes Tom Smarte hats different? 

We hand craft our hats using the same tools, techniques and traditions passed down generations of Thomas Smartes and update classic designs for a more contemporary look. We do this by a combination of producing variations from standard materials ordinarily used by other hat brands and adding subtle detailing. We base our designs around distinct shapes that complement certain face shapes, creating a collection where anyone can find something that suits them.

All our hats are skilfully crafted by artisans from start to finish, which differs from the de-skilled assembly line processes that some other hat brands model themselves on. Our collection is created almost entirely in the UK, with the remainder in Italy and all are made by hand by very talented individuals.

3. Describe the Tom Smarte man?

A man who values style over fashion. Someone who appreciates the true value of craftsmanship. 

4. Where do you normally find your inspiration? 

Details. The difference between something being excellent rather than just good is in the final 1 to 2%. You can see this in everything, whether it's nature, photography, architecture or industrial design, it's the detail that makes something aesthetically compelling.

5. The design process must be the most fun part of your job but what's your least favourite thing to do? 

I can honestly say that everything about my job is fun, from designing a new product line, sampling it, producing the finished hats, showcasing the collection around the world, to meeting other brands. I used to be a solicitor, which wasn’t much fun at all!

6. You recently exhibited at New York Fashion Week what was the reaction like? 

The reaction was amazing. Americans really appreciate the different aesthetic that British brands create and in a way there’s a greater appreciation of us there than in our home country.

7. What kind of traits do you look in other hat makers? 

There are many directions that you can go with hat making and all of them can work provided they remain true to the craft. Whether it’s classic, artistic, directional or street, provided the hat is made well with no short cuts, that is something I really look for. 

8. If you could design a hat for any celebrity. Who would it be? 

I am currently in the exciting process of making hats for a number of celebrities that I’m not at liberty to disclose yet, but if there’s one person that I would have loved the opportunity to work with, it would have to be Frank Sinatra - a true style icon!

9. If you could sum up the Tom Smarte brand in 3 words they would be? 

Contemporary British Style

10. What drives you to continue Tom Smarte?

My aim is to bring back the hat making skills to the UK that have sadly been lost over the last century and use our natural creative instincts to push the boundaries of contemporary hat making.

11. What have you learnt within your years hat making? What has been your highest point and your lowest point? 

I’ve learnt that most people love the idea of wearing a hat, but have no idea what would best suit them, if anything will at all. It’s great seeing their reaction when I make a hat that brings out the best in them.

A high point was definitely seeing my hats for the first time on display at the Isetan Shinjuku department store in Tokyo - the pinnacle of menswear retail. The lowest point was a few years ago when I realised that there were so few fine hat makers left in the UK and that the numbers were dwindling. With luck, Tom Smarte will play its part to reverse that trend and help reinstate the UK as world leaders in hat making.

You can check out Tom Smarte here and make sure you follow them on Twitter - they have the best tweets!

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