Young Blood: Janessa Leone & Her Hats

Cult Obsessed: Janessa Leone of Janessa Leone
(Who we’re obsessed with and why you should be too.)

Before we even stepped foot into Janessa Leone‘s Santa Monica studio, we were greeted by Benjamin, the designer’s handsome Golden Retriever. “He’s the boss around here,” Janessa quipped. And, after a quick hello from the pup, we entered what is probably the most gorgeous home-slash-office to date.

Janessa, like many young professionals, lives and breathes her work. She rolls out of bed and sits at her desk, which is just a few feet away. The hats are neatly organized beside said desk. Essentially, she sleeps and sells hats to the likes of Jessica Alba and blogger Julie Sariñana in the same room — talk about dedication!

Take a look at where the magic happens (literally — her floor is often littered with feathers, especially leading up the next season’s shows!) and don’t forget give her Instagram a follow: her snaps of hat-wearing muses are extra dreamy during these chillier months.


CULT: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how your line came to be.

Janessa: I was born and raised in San Diego and moved to Los Angeles to pursue this business about two years ago. I decided to design my first hat after a post-college trip to Paris; I found the perfect vintage hat from a thrift store in the Marais. I wore it everywhere and became really intrigued with its story. I started meeting with bespoke hat-makers to try and trace it back to its roots. I wanted to recreate the feeling I felt from owning that hat. I had something that had withstood 60 years of history and was still in great condition. I know that I will have that hat forever and I hope that someone has the fortune to own after me.


CULT: Can you describe the first hat you ever designed?

Janessa: The first collection of hats was inspired by the construction and shape of that hat I found on my trip. Once I created the hat body, I started playing around with feathers and leathers to get the individual styles.


CULT: What inspires you more, the present or the past? 

Janessa: Both inspire me. I love nostalgic pieces, and I love that quality and craftsmanship used to be as important as style. I also find a lot of inspiration in other current artists. I love to see people’s creations and be reminded that we are all living this life together. It’s really inspiring to me to see how different people express themselves and how unique we all are.

CULT: Can you describe the “Janessa Leone” girl?

Janessa: I design for the girls who are confident and chic, but who are too busy to spend hours on their outfits every day. I feel like hats are the best accessories to be effortlessly cool.


CULT: Any challenges working and living in the same space?

Janessa: There are pros and cons. I love how convenient it is, but it’s hard to separate work from life when things that need to be done constantly surround you. Sometimes I wish I could just leave my work at work and come back fresh on Monday morning. On the upside, things get done because the stacks of paperwork will just stare at you until you do something about it.


CULT: Your ideal day…

Janessa: My ideal days are when I get to design all day. I love being saturated in inspirational images, fabrics, and accouterments.

CULT: Your typical day…

Janessa: I still have a very small team, so I’m hands-on in the business from top to bottom. I deal with everything from customer service to inventory. I try to break up my days so I’m not entirely bogged down with business matters. I try and sketch and come up with new ideas everyday. I think it’s important for brands to stay true to their roots and continue to come up with new ideas even if there are hundreds of emails that need to be returned.


CULT: What music do you listen to while you’re working?

Janessa: I love classic Rock and Roll, so my staple playlist rotates between the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young.


CULT: How do you come up with the names for the different hats?

Janessa: For this collection, I named my hats after the women who influenced some of Rock and Roll’s most timeless songs. I wanted to dedicate this collection to the ladies who have inspired my favorite songs, but for whom we have no face. I imagined who these women were, what they were like, and I came up with a style for each of them.


CULT: Who do you think optimizes the ultimate hat style?

Janessa: I think Rosie Huntington-Whiteley has had some of my favorite hat looks. She really knows how to master the casual-cool look that I try and create with my hats.


CULT: What’s your best advice to amateur designers?

Janessa: I think it’s important for people to remain well-balanced in their business. It gets really hard and really stressful, but no matter how crazy it all gets, it’s important to stay true to your craft and to spend time and effort developing your creativity. There are always going to be hiccups and issues to deal with, but it’s important not to get worked up about the things you can’t control and focus your efforts on the thing that makes you unique.

Janessa Leone

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