Hat About Town

Last week, while pouring over ad numbers I was aggressively interrupted by a clamoring enthusiasm. Two office homies were returning from a routine burrito-bowl run after meeting Gabriel of Gabriel-Liberty. G-L is a New York City based headwear brand boasting timeless hand made goods inspired by downtown city culture. Nylon Guys caught up with the swanky, 22 year old hat designer for a Q&A about his emerging brand and love for NYC.

  • NYLON GUYS: Is, Liberty your actual last name?
  • GABRIEL LIBERTY: Yep, my biological name.
  • NG: And you grew up in New York?
  • GL: Yes, I'm originally from Brooklyn.
  • NG: How has growing up in Brooklyn shaped your design aesthetic?
  • GL: I've learned a lot from observing street style. I was initially really inspired by it, spending so much time downtown. When I started making clothes I was set on making street wear. I sort of felt like I had to. I borrowed from the things I saw around me. Then, one day it clicked…this isn't working. I was putting myself in a box. Being from New York was huge in that it inspired me but it was also a lesson of what not to do.
  • NG: You personally make these hats by hand?
  • GLI don't personally stitch them but they're made by hand in the Garment District [in downtown New York City].
  • NG: Where'd you develop the savvy for that? Formal studies?
  • GL: Absolutely none! I was always really interested in fashion. My whole approach was, "Oh, I don't need education, blah blah blah," but [in hindsight] I think that's wrong. You do need to learn. You do need to be a student at some point. My girlfriend studies fashion at Parsons. I learned a lot from her. I asked a lot of questions and there were a lot of embarrassing moments. She put me in my place, which was good.
  • NG: Is there a void in the men's accessories arena? Are designers in the hat game missing the mark these days?
  • GL: Less so now. People are starting to pay more attention to men's accessories. But yeah, I would say there is [a void]. The reason I was drawn to men's accessories and the reason I think there is an important place for men's accessories in the market is because it's hard to dress as a guy. You're too conservative or you're too trendy, so to speak. I think a hat or even a wallet, or sunglasses are really great ways for people who don't want to dress too crazy to add a noticeable touch. That's something I've been thinking about. How can these hats make something simple stand out without screaming for attention?
  • NG: Is that why you started G-L?
  • GL: I didn't want to go into this [venture] trying to dress myself. The thing I've always grappled with, was whether I should buy nice comfortable t-shirts and jeans or Hood By Air and whatever else is current. The way I see things, being too trendy made me feel like I don't want to do this anymore. That's why I started making hats. You can dress in a simple way but wearing the right hat still looks fashionable and still catches your eye.
  • NG: If there were one person you could sacrifice a non essential body part to have wear one of your hats, who would that person be?
  • GL: Man, that's a tough question…I guess it would be cool to have Al Pacino [wear a G-L hat]. Though I wouldn't say dressing a guy like Al Pacino is what I see for the brand.
  • NG: Give me one adjective that describes both, your approach to design and your approach to New York City women?
  • GL: haha! "Trial and Error." It makes more sense for the hats. It makes sense for both when I think about my life. Every step of the way I've screwed up at least three times before I've gotten it right. In both categories.

photos captured by: Andre Perry

 

words by :Taj Reed