Fumile Chapelier.è.r.e brings custom made hats to the countryside ‘We want it to become an accessory that will transcend through time and have its own identity’

By Taylor McClure Special to Brome County News

Fumile Chapelier.è.r.e, a custom-made hat business located in Frelighsburg, opened its doors three months ago and owners Alex Surprenant and Mélodie Lavergne are hoping to educate Brome-Missisquoi on what makes a custom hat unique, and how to incorporate it as a ‘must-have’ in an everyday wardrobe. Surprenant and Lavergne first established a boutique for their hat-making business in Montreal in 2018 when they wanted a bigger space outside the city. Attracted to what Lavergne called the enchanting village of Frelighsburg, they are now hoping to bring a unique craft to the countryside.
“Lavergne says she has done a bit of everything since coming from design school. “I was more into clothes and hair accessories and my partner Alex, had nothing to do with anything artsy or creative, but he was interested in hat-making,” explained Lavergne. He discovered this woman in Montreal who offers introduction to hat-making and he was hooked.
Already having experience with her own business where she revamped second-hand clothes and made hair wraps, Lavergne and Surprenant opened their own custom-made hat boutique in the city in 2018. “That was the beginning. Montreal was great; it allowed us to be in contact with a lot of people, but it was a very small space and we needed to grow. We also had kind of a calling to go back to nature in a smaller town. That was another plunge, leaving the big city, but it was the right time and with everything going on, it was the best thing we could have done.”
They settled on Frelighsburg, where their space is four times larger and acts as a ‘showcase’ of their work. They hope to reintroduce Quebecers to the unique craft behind hat making, and how to make a statement while wearing it. “There are very few of us making hats and there’s a reason. People stopped wearing hats for a while, especially in Quebec, but in the United States it’s more popular.
With experience, Lavergne said they learned what was important when it came to finding the right fit for their customers. “We realized in our time doing this that finding which crown, which is the top of the hat, will fit with your face. If it’s a statement, or being worn more as ready-to-wear. The width of the brim, the edge of the hat, goes with your height and makes the statement you want your hat to make. We try to get the customer not to focus on color or decoration, just the style of hat. We decide that together and then we go into more details.”
Lavergne emphasized that the aesthetic Fumile is all about adding their own twist to a traditional style of hat. “We want to respect the traditional hat, how it’s made in its shape, but also want to bring new ideas to it. Hats didn’t really evolve with fashion that much as an accessory so we play with a lot shapes; like the fedora. With the pointy shape, since we mold it all by hand, we will do little twists in the fedora. We want to bring other models that are innovative in design and colour, texture of fabrics, doing different dyes, adding some refined jewelry into the bands, things like that.”
The partners make what were traditionally men’s hats, such as the Peruvian
bowl, the eastern, the western, the cattle man, for everyone. “There really is no limit. We make berets and beanies, that’s more of our niche side. We have customers who love that style, but it’s not our main product. We are also developing more fabric hats, like caps and bucket hats, but that’s a whole other craft when you hand-make them.”
It’s all about bringing the style of hat ‘outside of the box’ so that it makes its own statement.
“It becomes a hat that’s a classic. We don’t want it to be a trend this year and next year, we want it to become an accessory that will transcend time and have its own identity.
Yes, it’s a fashion accessory, but let’s detach ourselves from the fashion sense of it and see it as a must-have in your closet.”
To make their hats, they use top quality straw and felt. “We work with artisans in Ecuador who hand weave so its natural straw woven in a circle. It creates these bodies that we can mold and shape our hats from. Creating those bodies, there is a lot of work behind it and they can’t be machine-made. That’s what determines the grade of your hat and the price point. We try to find the best materials to produce quality and sustainable hats.”
What distinguishes their hats from othersis their signature scar. “We cut into the felt and stich it so that it looks like a scar. That’s our philosophy; that we all of have scars and shouldn’t be ashamed to show them. We should own our past and who that makes us, that is parallel to wearing your hat. You have to own your hat and own who you are. The hat is an extension of your identity. Once people start wearing their hat, especially a custom one, it’s an extension of who they are.”
Already busy and looking to hire a third person to join their team, Lavergne and Surprenant are looking forward to establishing themselves in Brome-Missisquoi. “We have an amazing space and the community too is amazing. We have been super busy, we haven’t had a chance to really connect with people around here yet, but at the end of the day love it here.”

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