Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 29th 2015 Contents | PROFILES |
By Roslyn Carrington
LIFE CAN BE RANDOM. I happened to be strolling through
the Auzonville Mall in busy Tunapuna when I glanced to my
left and stopped dead in my tracks. Next thing I knew, my
nose was pressed up against the glass, and I was drooling.
I've been to stores where they sell hats, but I have never
been to a hat store. Walk into Melena Simon O'Neil's Couture
Hats, and I promise you, you'll agree with me. There is noth-
ing like it in T&T.
I'm trying not to rave, but that's hard. Couture Hats is a
happy, colourful, eye-candy store filled with jellybean hopes
and sugarplum dreams. And you know me: I can't let a good
story slide. I barged in and started pelting questions.
WOW: How long has Couture Hats been open?
About three weeks. It's been going very well. Starting a new
business is never easy. Thankfully, I have the support of my
family; my mother, my husband and other relatives.
WOW: Why hats?
A lot of women are into shoes; I'm into hats. I grew up seeing
my grandmother and other fashionable ladies wearing hats.
But I think my love affair with hats came later in my life
when I developed my own sense of style. When I put on a
hat, it transforms how I look and feel dramatically. It boosts
my confidence and makes me feel more feminine.
When I wear hats, the reaction I get is overwhelming. That's
why I never go to a formal event without a hat!
I used to purchase hats abroad for myself. Soon, people
started asking me, "Can I shop in your closet? I never see
hats like yours down here!" One lady in church even told me it
was a message from God: this was something I needed to
WOW: How do you know what hats to stock?
I follow top designers, and realised that many presented their
collections with hats. There are many fashion blogs dedi-
cated to hats and hat fashion. Every major city has dedicated
hat stores. I thought, this thing is big! I realised that ladies
who want to look pretty could benefit from a hat store in
T&T, and so, Couture Hats by Melena was born.
WOW: How has the reaction been?
Exciting! The day we opened, one lady stood outside my
store and applauded. I sent out releases to the media and
within minutes they would call back: "We hear you have
I'm teaming with designers like Delia Alleyne and Ecliff Elie to
collaborate on fashion shows. Quite recently, we collaborated
to produce "Hattitude", where local designers showcased
their collection with our hats. A lot of singers and performers
are also coming in for hats.
WOW: What do you stock?
We have hats for ladies, men, teens, and children, both for-
mal and casual. Many clients are buying them as gifts, or
choosing hats for events. I also have a bridal collection which
includes a full line of birdcage veils and bridal fascinators.
These are quite popular now as the modern brides no longer
want full traditional veils. We also have a few handbags,
dresses, jewellery and hair ornaments.
Customers can send in a photo of the outfit they intend to
wear, or bring it with them, and we will find them something
to match. Our items are exclusive. We never stock more than
2 pieces of anything in the store. You'll never walk into an
event and see anyone in your hat.
WOW: Do you have a background in business?
I'm from Tobago. My family owns and runs the Bellissimo
Boutique Hotel in Buccoo Bay. I also own Emerald Designs
and Events Services. I plan events, coordinate weddings and
run an event rental warehouse. I'm also a trained counsellor,
specialising in counselling children and adolescents.
WOW: How do you DO all this?
It's hard. I also have a daughter who is preparing for SEA. I
have to dedicate time, effort and resources to this new
"baby", but thankfully, I have the support of my entire family. I
have a superwoman for an office manager at Emerald;
Daddy, Mummy and my sisters hold down the fort at the
hotel; my husband is my rock and business partner, and my
brothers are part of my staff. It means very long days, but I
don't do half measures.
WOW: What do you say to people who don't think that
can pull off a "hat look"?
Saying you don't look good in a hat is like saying you don't
look good in shoes. It's all about finding the right hat, the
right material, and the right style to suit the shape of your
face, the outfit and the occasion.
You have to ask yourself: do you need to have the attitude to
pull off a hat, or is it wearing that hat that gives you the atti-
tude? I call it "Hattitude": the confidence and attitude you get
from wearing a hat. THAT is how you rock a hat!
You can contact Couture Hats at 221-6279; couturehat-
stt.com; email@example.com; or Couture
Hats by Melena on Facebook
Melena rocks her hat
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