When Manny, of Manny’s Millinery, was closing up and selling off all of his equipment, Frenel Morris bought it all and set up shop in an old warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Now with more than a thousand vintage hat blocks in his factory, Morris shapes and fits every single hat himself, from fedoras to cloches to simple caps, and sells them out of his bright and cozy Orchard Street shop, Still Life NYC. We caught up with Frenel at the store to discuss accessorizing, head-to-toe.
How did you get involved in the hat business?
Well, since I was a kid, I always wore a hat. I went to Parsons, for communications, and started working in the publishing and advertising world, though doing graphics for some fashion companies, then started experimenting with my own line, and I guess that’s when I first decided to make a cap and it came out nice.
Who have you been collaborating with?
We did a cool collaboration with the designer Jen Kao, a new and upcoming line. The collaboration allowed me to do a totally different aesthetic than Still Life and I love that.
If you could collaborate with any designer, who would it be?
Who shops at Still Life?
There’s really no set demographic for Still Life. Our customers are men and women of all ages and styles. That’s the great thing about hats: Two people with totally different aesthetics can wear the same hat, but it’ll say something completely different on each. I guess the one thing my clients have in common is that they’re all pretty confident in their styles and aren’t afraid to be individuals.
What was the first hat you ever bought?
I never used to buy hats, I just acquired them one way or another, but the first hat I ever purchased was on my birthday in Puerto Rico. I had just won $1,500 at the blackjack table the night before, so I dropped three bills on a sick Borsalino. Well spent.
What labels do you wear the most?
It’s going to sound wack, but Brooks Brothers. I’m a pretty basic guy. I think it’s all about the accessories anyway.
What’s something that every woman (or man) should have in her (or his) closet?
That’s obvious: a beautiful hat (hint hint) and some really nice shoes. Then you can rock anything in between the two. Accessorize.
What are your favorite trends for this winter?
Lots of black!
What is the trend you wish would go away?
White winter coats.
Trend you wish would make a comeback?
Knickerbockers for men.
Where else do you shop in NYC?
Brooks Brothers for my clothes — I like basics. Jean Shop on West Broadway for denim. Gargyle on Orchard Street has a good collection of independent designers and a great selection of men’s shoes.
Finish this sentence: I never leave the house without ____.
My keys and some quarters.