Aimee Speer of Covet Hats finds inspiration in her clients’ personal style.
Story and photos by Kara E. Henderson
Though an avid collector of hats since her early 20s, Aimee Speer never envisioned she would thrive as a custom hatmaker in the heart of Texas. In fact, when she moved to Austin from New York nearly 20 years ago, she initially entered the Southern fashion scene with the launch of her denim company, Hem Jeans.
“I had a boutique downtown for 10 years,” Speer says. “I loved being in the fashion industry but wanted to create something with my own two hands. The manufacturing process gets lost in translation, and you’re basically putting your vision in someone else’s hands instead of knowing that everything is the way you want it and [ensuring] the craftsmanship and quality is there.”
So, in 2015, she made a pivotal decision.
“I closed the store,” she says. “My third daughter was born and I took six months off and just thought about my life.”
It was during this time—the first break she’d taken from working since she was 16 years old—that she had a revelation.
“I realized I need to be working. I’m not the stay-at-home-mom type,” Speer says. “My identity is my work. I’m passionate about it.”
While she knew fashion was the right field, she wasn’t sure what her role would be in it. But soon, clarity came.
“One day,” she says, “I put on a hat and looked in the mirror and thought, ‘How do you make a hat?’ I started obsessing over not knowing how to make a hat and I wanted to find out how.”
Thus, Covet Hats was born.
To Speer, a hat is “one of those pieces I consider wearable art because it’s so personal, and people don’t always have that opportunity to [own] something that is truly made for them; they put [it] on their body and that represents them.”
The start of her hat-making journey was paved with dead ends and denials.
“It was a frustrating process,” she shares. “I got a lot of doors slammed in my face, people turning me down for information or apprenticeships.
Fortunately, she found an ally in legendary hatmaker James C. Whittington, better known as J.W.
“I found a gentleman online that after 35 years wanted to pass on the knowledge of his craft,” Speer says. “He was ready and at a place in his life where he just wanted to give information and spread the techniques. He was brilliant.”
In terms of what inspires her, Speer has a simple answer.
“My clients and what’s important to them,” she says. “I sit down and pretty much interview them. I get a sense of their style. It’s one of
those pieces you need to feel good in every day. Ultimately, I want [my clients] to be happy when they come to pick up their hat, and to light up a little bit when they put it on.”