Hat designer, Satya Twena couldn't be a more perfect example of what it means to be a New York City transplant. She was born and raised in Newport Beach, CA and eventually moved to the east coast to attend Wellesley College in Boston. Not knowing what she wanted to do and motivated mostly by the fact that her friends lived in New York, she signed a 6 month lease in the city upon graduation. She might as well have been transported in a pumpkin-turned-golden carriage to the Big Apple as she met her prince charming within a week of living in New York. "It was an extremely romantic situation," Satya said, "within three months we were living together and a year and a half later we got married." It looks like the slipper was a perfect fit!At the time she met her husband, Jeffery, she was working in event planning but post marriage decided to go back to school at Parson's for Interior Design. She decided to forgo graduation in favor of great job opportunities and quickly earned a position at Studio Sofield, a very successful interior design company. Satya spent three years at Studio Sofield before she became dissatisfied at work. She explained, "I thought it was just nervous anxiety and energy...like I needed to do something. Interior design was a lot of planning and shopping and sourcing, but it did not involve physically making." Her mom suggested she take an art class at night and on the weekends and so she enrolled for classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology, one of which was a millinery class. Little did she know this class would be a stepping stone to her career as a fashion designer.Satya's urge to enroll in a millinery class arose from her frequent stops at a hat makers shop in the east village where she and Jeffery made many purchases. She was not aware that her innocent interest would not only help her explore an unknown world but would provide her a crucial skill in helping her mother battle breast cancer. After all, only a semester after enrolling in school, Satya's mom was diagnosed. "Hat making is very challenging. You have to have the arm strength to push and pull and tack and sew," Satya said. As her mother found strength in battling cancer, Satya used her creative strength to make her mom beautiful hats and help support her on her journey.Thankfully, her mother survived and by that time Satya was already enjoying the spiral effect of making hats for other family members and friends. At this point she was not concerned with a career in hat making. She was simply enjoying a new trade. After all, creativity was in her blood considering Satya came from a "crazy, eclectic family" as she would say. Her brother is a musician, mother is an artist, cousin is an actress and aunt is a fashion designer. "The most normal person in my family is my uncle who is a doctor but we joke he is in the cut and sew business like the rest of us," Satya said while laughing. Besides creative family genetics, Satya's experience in interior design gave her a different perspective.Satya's interior design background enabled her to think about construction, proportion and materials. "As an interior designer you think about how the floor meets the wall and the wall meets the ceiling. You don't just put a wall in the ceiling, you think about how everything meets," she explained, "...I bring that to my hats. I think about how the brim meets the crown and all the details that lead to a super finished product." It was't long before she realized the finished products she was creating were products women really wanted to wear. After an article came out on Cool Hunting about Satya she started getting a lot of phone calls from bloggers and magazines.Her popularity spread quickly and although the majority of her business came from private clients she did not hesitate to expand into wholesale. "I remember my first wholesale order," Satya reminisced, "the buyers [from treasure & bond on W Broadway] came to my fourth floor walk up in the east village and wrote a full order...this gave me the confidence to call other retailers and launched my wholesale business." Although in retail stores now, she mentioned how she still loves private clients, "I just look at them and know exactly what hat will work...I swear I become a hairdresser as I fit hats!" And she wasn't lying as she picked out a head accessory for me and styled my hair accordingly. "Do you feel sexy?" Satya asked me when she handed me a mirror. I did, but as a pessimist myself, I had to ask her opinion, "What do you say to someone who says he/she doesn't look good in hats?" and she responded, "They haven't found the right hat!" But they also, most likely, haven't had Satya herself style one on them...Who is her favorite person to see wearing her hats? It is not a celebrity, although many celebrity's, including Jessica Alba, wear her hats. Instead, it is that "Interesting woman who is not a celebrity and no one knows by name who comes in and wears a hat because she is a successful entrepreneur on her own" said Satya. Seeing a random woman wearing one of her hats on the street in New York was a crazy moment for Satya. I assumed a moment like that for a designer would be an epic, defining moment of success, but I wasn't fully (although partially) correct. "I think everyday since my mom fought and beat cancer I wake up and feel happy all around. I am successful because I wake up and have all these great components in my life--I cant just narrow my success to one factor."So what is next for Satya Twena? She is exploring hosiery. It seems a random category but she is always wearing dresses and crazy hosiery. "Hats and hosiery are really interesting ways to express yourself besides just your clothes." Besides hosiery, Satya is constantly inspired by different mediums and on the lookout for materials that are more sustainable. Living in New York especially fosters her creativity, "I walk to work and I am inspired," Satya said. She is definitely committed to living in New York and doesn't see herself outgrowing the city. Like she mentioned, "You don't outgrow the city--the city either outgrows you or will eat you alive." Although she is happy now she wasn't particularly happy when she first moved. "I hated it at first...after one year I was comfortable, after two years I was in love and now I literally can't imagine living anywhere else." And just after that sentence we wrapped up our interview as two private clients walked in. I did end up shooting in one of my favorite hats below. A simple, comfortable design with hand died ribbon. Hats off (or on) to you Satya! Thanks for a great interview!Satya is a huge advocate of social media. Follow her on Twitter and "like" her on Facebook. You can also follow her on instagram as satyatwena and check out her hats online here.
All photos taken of me are courtesy of Alex Mouganis Photography.