Adding a personal touch to your outfits can be difficult to maneuver with social media’s influence leading the way for all of the latest fashion trends. How does an individual stand out, while keeping up or staying ahead of the trends? In a room of similar outfits, it can be hard to spot personal style, but accessories seem to be the saving grace for personal expression to shine through. However, when it comes to handbags, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes the “it bag” of the season and a part of everyone’s wardrobe, but one accessory that one can always count on to convey individuality is hats.
Upon seeing Rodney Patterson’s hand-made hats for the first time, his designs appear as one of a kind, which they most likely are. “In America there’s not a lot of headwear brands creating in the space that I create in,” Patterson tells ESSENCE. Under his brand, Esenshel, you won’t find ordinary hat silhouettes like fedoras or bowlers, but you may find something close to it. Part of the beauty within Patterson’s designs is the familiarness that draws several people in, yet there is always something that is slightly off for the design to feel new.
Patterson’s unique approach originally stemmed from his desire to wear hats that experimented with proportion. Before creating Esenshel, he would buy western hats for their taller crowns and take them to a hat maker to deconstruct and reshape the brim to create hats that were truly one of a kind. Inevitably, Patterson’s hats would turn heads and attract compliments from strangers. “People would stop me on the streets and ask me where did you get that hat,” he said. After not being able to step out without his hats going unacknowledged, Patterson identified a business opportunity and took charge to start making the hats himself.
Since founding the brand in 2015, Patterson’s hats have traveled the world, lived in the pages of the biggest fashion magazines, and been worn by celebrities including Lizzo, Billy Porter, June Ambrose, Rihanna, and many more. Patterson says “The goal is to be a fashion hat at the end of the day.” And considering his greatest achievements to date, he’s certainly accomplished that goal.
The next lingering question to answer would be how exactly did Patterson go from making hats for himself to making hats for the biggest celebrities in the world, and the answer is advertisement space in magazines. However, it’s not the typical route brands take by paying for advertising to market their products. It can be better described as how FUBU gained free promotion from LL Cool J wearing the brand’s product in a Gap commercial. Patterson’s blessing has been that most magazine editorials have a full look policy – meaning the only clothes that can be used are the ones from the brand paying for the advertisement – however, accessories are usually where stylists have room to place their unique touch, which is how Esenshel became the go-to brand for editorial hat requests as there is almost no one else who creates hats like Patterson.
“I’m very very fortunate to work with a product that lends itself to editorials in that way,” Patterson expressed. “Even though my customer might not want the outrageous hat that they see on Rihanna, they definitely want to buy a hat from the guy who had a hat on Rihanna or Billy Porter or Cynthia Erivo. They don’t need the crazy hats, but they do like the idea that I can get hats on those people.”
Although Patterson loves and appreciates his celebrity clientele, he welcomes all people to his shop in NYC. “I would like people to know that the brand is so much more than the hats they see in editorials. There’s a hat in my shop for almost everyone – not all of them are crazy, outrageous hats,” he said. “30 different hats can speak to 30 different people.”
Explore Esenshel’s collections on esenshel.com and visit the brand’s flagship store in NYC at 67 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003.