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Men With Hats

Frank & Oak x Larose Paris.

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The sidewalk on Stanley Street outside of Frank & Oak’s newly minted Montreal flagship is bare; no superfans have pitched tents on the pavement, the way they do when mass market retailers release collaborations with fashion’s elite (H&M x Balmain, Target x Alexander McQueen). Nor will there be anybody selling pieces from Frank & Oak’s new joint-collection with French milliner Larose Paris for triple the price on eBay any time soon. This isn’t that kind of fashion collaboration.

The limited edition four-piece collection, consisting of two rabbit felt fedoras and a pair of luxe 100% wool baseball caps, aims to be more timeless than timely. Made at Larose Paris’ factory in the South of France, founder Isaac Larose notes that the project bucks the usual top-down trend. “I think what’s really interesting about this collaboration is instead of having [Larose Paris] and our designs go to a lower price point that’s more entry-level, it’s Frank & Oak coming our way for a made-in-France product with really great fabrics that is of a higher price point. It’s kind of a gift for their loyal customers,” Larose says.

Frank & Oak, the formerly online-only mid-market menswear brand now in the process of brick-and-mortar expansion across Canada and the United States, is well-suited to Montreal’s cafe-lined Mile End neighbourhood, where it is now headquartered. The area is known for its burgeoning creative culture, brimming with artists, writers, and startups—a rising sect of fashionable young professionals to whom the brand caters. Their customers have invented a respectable office dress code of their own, using refined incarnations of denim, plaid, and circular glasses.

Frank & Oak’s narrative both complements and contradicts Larose Paris’s identity. Founded in Paris three years ago, the connoisseurs des chapeaus originally aimed to create a cap men would feel comfortable wearing with a suit. Since then, the line has come to include fedoras and trilbies, and positions itself more as unisex. Their hats, made from rabbit felt and fine pure wools (lamb, Merino, or Casentino included) are decidedly high-end.

“If you’re going to invest $200 into a cap, you want it for more than a season. We are on the opposite end of the spectrum from fast fashion—and it’s doing really well for us,” notes Larose. “Our goal is not to be a ‘fashion’ brand. We are making a quality product that will stand the test of time.”

Caussade, the French city in which Larose Paris manufactures its products, is considered the hat-making capital of the country. “There used to be 50 factories in the same city and now there are only three left. It’s really a dying art. We want to make sure we help preserve it,” explains Larose. “We work with the best, which of course is expensive, but we want to make sure it’s still going to be there in 50 years.”

“The craftsmanship [of Larose] is definitely timeless,” says Frank & Oak co-founder Ethan Song. “The quality is timeless. When you think about hats, whether they’re fedoras or baseball caps, they’ve always been a staple of menswear—and they will continue to be a staple of menswear.”


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November 24, 2015