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STUDIO VISIT: WESTBROOK MAKERS IN VENICE, CA

January 22, 2013

Last year I was at an event by the shoe line The Peoples Movement  and I discovered an amazing line of hats that also happened to be a part of this particular event. My friend and I lost our minds when we started to try them on and I was immediately obsessed with knowing more about the brand and how the hats are made.  I spoke with one of the co-creators of the line, Gregory Westbrook, and we agreed to meet again in their tiny studio in a parking lot in Venice, Ca in the coming months so that I could learn more.

A view of their studio off of Abbot Kinney in the corner of a parking lot. Photo from a Japanese magazine.

A view of their studio off of Abbot Kinney in the corner of a parking lot. Photo from a Japanese magazine.

I finally had the chance to visit their Abbot Kinney studio last week and sit down with the head milliner, Gregory Westbrook,and his awesome assistant Mikey.  Gregory started Westbrook Makers with his partner, Nicolas Fouquet, in September of 2011.  Gregory got the itch to start making hats while working at famous boot maker Billy Martin’s and seeing firsthand the craftmanship that goes into creating beautiful yet workable cowboy gear. His history with the cowboy lifestyle goes further back to his time growing up on a farm and riding horses in Ocala, Florida.  He has been designing and creating hats for over 20 years and it definitely shows in the workmanship of each of these one -of -a kind gems.

Gregory in his small studio holding the first cowboy hat he ever made.

Gregory in his small studio holding the first cowboy hat he ever made.

Love his boots

Love these boots

The very first hat Gregory made with legendary hat maker Kevin O'Farrell from Durango, Colorado

The very first hat Gregory made with legendary hat maker Kevin O’Farrell from Durango, Colorado

All of the hats are made with the finest beaver felts, exotic leathers and deadstock European grosgrain. Each hat has its own one of kind touch including hand made leather bands with Native American beads or a single matchstick( a homage to Gregory’s father who always wore a matchstick in his hat band). Every color combination is different and every hat is shaped uniquely for each particular style.  A definite lost art, these guys are doing their part to bring the past back into the future with this hat making process.  Each hat is truly a work of art, so unique, so original, so next level.

They drew upon old school graphics for their logo

They drew upon old school graphics for their logo

Hat forms and boxes in the corner of their studio

Hat forms and boxes in the corner of their studio

I felt right at home in the studio with the sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Led Zepplin and The Clash playing in the background.  These are my kind of guys.  Highly influenced by music as well as culture and fashion, these two are making inroads in the music scene as well as the fashion scene here in Los Angeles.  Ryan Bingham, Jacob Dylan and Kid Rock are just a few that don their hats and Bergdorf Goodman picked up the line this past fall.  Local leather designer Claire Vivier is also a supporter as well as Shelter Half on La Brea and Deus ex Machina in Venice. GQ also has their eye on them .

Modeling The Tejune

Modeling The Tejune

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Modeling The El Blanco

Modeling The El Blanco

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Images from their inspiration board

Images from their inspiration board

They sell their hats worldwide to private clients and love making custom orders for real working cowboys all over the world.  Gregory said that he loves to make the hats for people that wear them purposefully. For him, Utility comes first and fashion comes second.

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The process of creating each hat can take up to one week depending on the shape and the type of beaver they are working with.  Some hat shaping can tear their knuckles up so hard that they bleed.  This is the type of process that takes a lot of patience and time-something that most of us don’t seem to have anymore. No doubt, a lost art that these two are bringing back.

All of Westbrook’s hats have a very old western cowboy style to them but also have a touch of David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan in there that creates the perfect and most unique style that is all their own.  I grew up around cowboys and horses and I’ve never seen any hats this unique in all of my days.

The hat box

The hat box

The inside crown of the hats are color coded according to beaver quality.

The inside crown of the hats are color coded according to beaver quality.

I went into this visit hoping that somehow I would walk out of there with a new hat to wear around town. I didn’t know how it was going to happen as the hats are priced according to the high quality that they are around $400-$1000.  After trying on many styles, I landed on the El Jefe as my favorite which translates to “The Chief” which is perfect as my friends refer to me as Chief.

Modeling the El Jefe

Modeling the El Jefe

Gregory shaping my new hat with assistant Mikey on the scene

Gregory shaping my new hat with assistant Mikey on the scene

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Creating just the right level of sass for the front dip of my new hat

Creating just the right level of sass for the front dip of my new hat

El Jefe, my newest prize posession

El Jefe, my newest prize possession

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to walk out of that studio rocking a Westbrook Maker’s hat.  I’m so excited to wear it around town and see how people react.  This is a serious hat and must be worn with confidence and power.  Its’ part David Bowie and part Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde.  It’s perfect and I love it.  Thank you!!

To find out more about Westbrook Makers and to place a custom order, check out their website  and follow them on facebook .

Their latest press coverage in this month’s Angeleno magazine below.

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