How to Pack a Hat Without Damaging It, According to Travel-Obsessed Milliner Molly Yestadt

Molly Yestadt, the designer and founder of Yestadt Millinery, is a self-described city person. So, when she was able to choose a destination for her inspiration trip, as part of the CFDA Fashion Incubator's partnership with W Hotels, she selected Bangkok, Thailand, a bustling city with a population of over 8 million, instead of a beachy resort. "I am interested in big, messy cities that have a lot of history, and a history of craftsmanship," the native New Yorker explains. Here, she explains what most inspired her about Bangkok, the other cities she's excited to visit, and how to pack a hat without crushing it on an airplanes.

As a member of the CFDA Fashion Incubator program, you were able to choose a trip to a W Hotel anywhere in the world for an inspiration trip, and you chose the W Bangkok. How did you make that decision?
I think Southeast Asia has always been intriguing to me because the colors are so different, but part of the reason I have been wanting to go to Bangkok specifically is I am interested in big, messy cities that have a lot of history, and a history of craftsmanship. I’m a city person, so it’s always interesting to me to see crowds, when everyone's together, and what that looks like. I’m also very interested in architecture and design--the way the temples are built, the way the boats are built, the way the markets are developed... it’s very interesting and so different from what I grew up with, so that’s a big draw.

I think it's just so inspiring to be able to really experience a place with so many different foods and smells. I always feel whenever I travel there’s a lot of smell that comes into play, which sounds weird. But whenever I’ve done big trips it’s a big part of it. The air is different, the light is different and that's something you only experience when you are traveling, rather than looking at magazines or pictures or something like that. That’s the fun part.

What place were you most excited to see?Wat Samphran, a [17-story Buddhist temple outside of Bangkok]. That’s one I’ve been researching for a long time. It’s amazing. There’s not a lot about it online, but I did some deep research on temples surrounding Bangkok and I found like an image of it and I was like, "I don’t know what this is but it looks unbelievable." It’s decorative, but it’s architectural and it’s like this spiritual mecca. I can’t think of anything else that I've seen that's so outrageous looking. It's wrapped in a dragon!

What other cities are you inspired by at the moment?
The other place that’s been on my bucket list for a long time is Istanbul, Turkey. It has an amazing architectural history, unbelievable food, great markets, specific textile developments, religion and culture... it all happens there. Marrakech, Morocco, would also be unbelievable. Lets make that happen.

How will the ways in which Bangkok inspired you come through in your designs?
A lot of the inspiration that I start with is color and lines and I think that comes into play with architectural elements and things like that. I think that at this point our customers are very well traveled, so I think our hats and accessories have to perform in a lot of different scenarios, and I think one of the key things is being able to travel. One of the questions I always get from customers is, "How do I travel with my hat?" But I don’t think it’s too hard to travel with hats! We make roll-up hats that are made for travel, but the fact is that you can travel with any hat. It’s definitely a design challenge to keep in mind, though. Like I know that our girl is not precious about her things, so they just have to perform to some extent with the lifestyle.

So what are your tips for how to pack a hat?
We have a roll up hat that’s awesome. It's easy -- the band is elastic, so you can just roll it up and put it in a tote. It’s our best seller. For things that are more structured, like a structured straw, or something that’s a little bit heavier like felt, I like to bring a tote on the plane with me and put the tote under the seat. I don’t put them in the overhead, because they get smushed around, so that’s how I travel with it. I don’t travel with hat boxes, because the round ones don’t fit in the overhead. I've carried big drums before when I’ve gone on meetings, and that’s awesome because you can check that and it’s not going anywhere but I wouldn’t anticipate that it’s something most people really want to travel with! The other trick that I have is if you have a hard suitcase you can put the hat upside down in your suitcase and put a t-shirt in the crown. And that’s easy. I think it can get intimidating, but once you do it you’re like, "oh, no big deal."

Is that the most common thing people ask you?
I think that’s the number two question. The number one is how do I know what size I am?

How do you help customers figure that out?
If you have a measuring tape, you can measure your head. We are getting custom tape measurers, which I am really excited about. I am putting a button on the website so if people don’t know their size we can send them a tape measurer! There’s a few tricks as far as sizing goes – in my opinion, I think it’s better if it’s a little bit big. If it’s too small, you can’t get it on. So if it’s a little bit big, you can put milliner’s tape on the inside, or you can also pin your hair, even just adding a little twist with a bobby pin is a great trick. If a hat's a little big there’s more leeway.

What are the hats that you wear most regularly?
I wear our baseball caps a lot. Like a lot. All the time. We’ve done them in leathers and really beautiful, supple materials. And in the summer I wear the samba hat, the striped straw. That’s my go-to. It’s not precious, in a way.

How about when you're traveling?
I always travel with a baseball hat and something that’s a little more sturdy, like if it’s a straw I’ll bring something that’s a little hearty that I know won't get crushed or collapse. And I’ll bring a sun hat if it’s a nice sunny vacation.

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