Dead animals may be a bit scary to some, but for Victor Osborne and Zach Barnett, the duo behind Victor Osborne, they’re grist for the creative mill. Drawing on an old millinery tradition, the boys incorporate every thing from fox heads to baby birds into their frightening fabrications.
Based in Brooklyn, New York, Osborne and Barnett (pictured) pride themselves on the personal touches behind their work. And, if nothing else, the professional is the personal: their space serves as factory, show room, and – tucked inconspicuously behind a wall – their home. Painted white with a black Murano chandelier, sparse window dressing, a video loop of their product, and sewing machines, it invokes an atelier more than a shop. This stylistic detail arises less from the pair’s interior decoration and more from the sentiment of the company.
Osborne, 23, says, “People look at us and they look at the hats differently once they come into the space and see us workingâ€¦at the same place where they shop.” Barnett, who spends more time on the business side of the company, concurs. Discussing the allure of American Apparel’s “sweat shop” free product that is, that the t-shirts, undies, and hoodies sported everywhere by everyone, essentially come from huge warehouses, Barnett says, “[Yes] we’re also wheels in a machine, but there are only two wheels. It’s very personal. We’re trying to produce interesting shapes and styles for people, but at the same time, we’re really offering them our work.”
While the duo may have founded the business a mere three-months ago in search of profits, their company stems for a love of the design game, not the dollar sign. Naturally exuberant and affable, Osborne’s excitement swells visibly when discussing his creations:
A lot of times we’ll try to be a little more daring in some of our own designs, but at the same point you’re running a business, so you have to tone it down. When we have carte blanche to do a project, we go all out! It was completely crazy. It was just no holds, so we had the chance to make this big, elaborate hat with birds perched and big branches!
Growing up in Albany, New York, Osborne first embarked on his design career in an arts intensive high school and, from there, at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, where he majored in fashion design. Though his education revolved around knitwear, Osborne’s always been allured by millinery, becoming particularly interested after his aunt, an avid collector of designer hats, died: leaving behind a collection of hats from the 1930s and 1940s.
During his time at FIT, Osborne took time from knitwear to try his hand at the millinery arts. While his classmates focused, as Osborne says, on “The ladies who lunch and Harlem Sunday church hats,” he eschewed the obvious for more traditional pieces. From there, he did his time at Eugenia Kim in New York and Perplex and Lola in Montreal, where he met Barnett at a New Year’s Eve dinner.
Born in Memphis, but raised primarily outside of Chicago, the 24-year old Barnett left America at the age of sixteen to live in Japan with his father. For college, Barnett headed to Canada to Concordia University in Montreal to pursue his passion.
I really enjoy the creative process. I feel if you’re creating something well, it’s almost like you’re accessing the future and the present. You think of something that hasn’t been made yet and you have this cool connection with making it and the process is really nice. [Yes] production isn’t always a dream. It sucks sometimes. You don’t want to sit all day and do monotonous tasks, but when you have the opportunity to make things yourself, it’s amazing.
Since embarking on their careers, they’ve already found retail buyers at a number of stores in America, Europe, and Japan. As a new design season looms, the gents promise even more boundary-breaking creations. While they’ll continue to churn out more conservative hats, expect to see fedoras with treated chicken cross-bones as trim.
Scary shit, that.
(Oh, and don’t worry, boys, they make hats for you, too.)