Home LIFESTYLE & TRAVEL Fashion Feeling chic? Add a hat!

Feeling chic? Add a hat!

Nothing finishes off an outfit quite like a perfectly styled hat. We caught up with hat maker and owner of Freya Hats, Stephanie Brearley, who is passionate about creating hats and fashion with a purpose.

What started out as a little project to raise funds for charity during the first lockdown, has gone on to become a highly successful, sustainable fashion brand for Umhlanga-based entrepreneur Stephanie.
“My husband and I were living in the UK at the time and came home for a friend’s wedding. When the lockdown was announced and we couldn’t return, I decided to use my time constructively.”
Using discontinued fabric sample books that she acquired from her parents’ business, Stephanie started sewing and selling (on Instagram) napkins, dresses and hats to raise money for various charities close to her heart.

“The hats found great appeal among friends and family and the seed of Freya Hats was sewn. I loved the fact that I was ‘upcycling’ fabric and creating sustainable fashion pieces with a purpose. As Freya Hats has grown, I have tried to remain true to myself and the brand, ensuring all hats are made using sustainably-sourced or upcycled fabric.”
Born and raised in Durban, Stephanie comes from an entrepreneurial family (her parents own Shaves Paint and Decor) and, after studying education at UCT, she moved to the UK where she studied fashion journalism at Condè Nast and started writing for an online sustainable fashion magazine.

Now she prides herself on the fact that her business allows her to give back. “A fundamental philosophy that I try to live my life by is to try make an impact in your sphere of influence. I believe all of us can make a difference, no matter how small. Not only did I want to create a brand with sustainability as a key element, but I wanted to create fashion with a purpose and use my platform as a way to give back.”

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According to Stephanie, Freya Hats has collaborations with both The CORA Project and Sithanda Upliftment Projects. One hundred percent of profits from The CORA Hat in their range is donated to The CORA Project, whose mission is to support menstruators from underprivileged communities and help end period poverty. “As of this month, in collaboration with Sithanda Uplifment Projects, for every hat sold we will be donating a CANSA-approved certified UPF 50+ protection hat to the children at Ekuthuleni school in KZN.

Freya Hats founder Stephanie Brearley with Lebogang Mahlangu, who is wearing a bucket hat.

Unable to keep up with the demand making all the hats herself, Stephanie now works with a small scale female owned manufacturer based in Durban. “I wanted to keep the production local, and they were prepared to take on my small orders at the beginning and grow with me. I source all the fabric and, together with my manufacturer, we create the patterns. Our newest hat, The Kai Hat, is handwoven by female artisans in KZN.”

Freya Hats has a wide range of styles, including their Little Freya collection, for ages 3 months to 12 years. Most of their hats have certified UPF 50+ protection and are CANSA-approved. Among their most popular styles are the Maya Sun Hat, which has an adjustable circumference drawstring and moldable brim, and the Straw Visor, which is super easy to travel with. Freya Hats recently launched a range of mohair beanies, which have been hand-knitted with sustainably-sourced and traceable mohair.

Speaking about current fashion trends, Stephanie says hats have become an essential part of any look and are no longer there just to offer protection. “The bucket hat has been an obsession for the past few years now and the trend isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Straw hats are an essential summer staple and we are now seeing a greater variety in the silhouettes available. A favourite trend of mine is the reimaging of the straw visor. It is no longer just seen as a favourite among tennis players, but a must-have fashion accessory, not only for its practicality but its stylish look, too.” Having recently got married herself, Stephanie says she has loved seeing brides opting for hats over veils. “Bridal headwear is one of the biggest trends right now, from embellished headbands and clips to felt fedoras. No matter the aesthetics there seems to be a piece of headwear for every modern bride.”

Details: Freya Hats are available online: www.freyahats.co.za, @freyahats

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