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Robert Miller was waiting to get into a nightclub one evening when a bouncer told him the Yankees fitted hat he was wearing was against the dress code. Then he had a revelation.
"He was disappointed about that, but having an ingenious mind, he meditated on it and thought, 'What can I do to overcome this?'" says Greg Shainman, Miller's business partner. "He still wanted to wear hats out, but the traditional baseball cap wasn't allowed."
Thirty-somethings Shainman and Miller came up with something beyond the traditional. They started a business in 2008 with the idea of taking a baseball hat template and adding stylistic features to make it more appropriate for formal occasions.
In 2010 they had a breakthrough: They were awarded a patent for their FeatherFitted cap, the signature product of their business, FashionFitted LLC.
"This is a new genre of hat, and it takes the sort of basic baseball style hat and uses some certain design elements, wraps a band around that hat and puts a feather in there," Shainman says. "It was considered by the government a new style of hat that had never been created before. We want to revolutionize the hat-wearing experience for people."
For Miller, the hat was a success. When he returned to the club that had banned his baseball hat, the bouncer called for the owner to see if the FeatherFitted hat would be all right in the club. The owner loved it, Shainman says, and Miller was allowed in.
"We want to transform the casual hat into a dressier and more formal-looking hat," Shainman says.
The partners, who work with a tailor, Erdogan Kapaligi, at Marketplace mall, have many of the hats on display at their store, where shoppers can choose which they like. But Shainman says the real idea behind FashionFitted is that customers get to design the hats themselves.
"We're about empowering customers, so they can pick out the hat color and customize it themselves," Shainman says. "We're not like regular baseball hats, but they can pick the colors of their favorite team if they want something different than a traditional team hat."
The result is a hat that can fit in a formal occasion like a wedding, something that Shainman says "wouldn't look incongruent on a suit or with jeans and a shirt."
Shainman envisions the FeatherFitted cap ushering in a new era of hats, as Curtis Mayfield did in the 1970s or James Cagney in an earlier time.
"Those were things that resonated throughout different cultures, and we want to help bring that back," Shainman says.
The store already has been successful in bringing in a variety of customers, he says. Though the hat is styled more toward male fashion, he has seen women and people of all ages and backgrounds buy it.
Though Shainman says the store is still too new to the Marketplace to determine annual revenue, he notes that customer traffic is picking up and expects the store to be increasingly popular as the holiday season approaches.
Customers also can buy the hats online at FashionFitted's website, with the FeatherFitted cap listed for $99.99.
Shainman says he believes the store will become more of a destination than a place where mall visitors just drop in.
"With how people can customize and create their own hats, we can be like Build-A-Bear for hats," Shainman says. "We want the store to be something that people drive to the mall to do, to be excited about going to design their own hat."
Shainman and Miller, FashionFitted's sole employees, believe they have a product that will set them apart, for the first time offering a formal option for people who love baseball hats.
"Even if people want to wear this casually, this is something that's more about fashion than anything the dominant players in the baseball hat market are offering," Shainman says. "They're mainly going for the sports-oriented market, but ours is more about fashion."
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