A hat, woven from the black movie dream of a boy's heart: the 1915 Chicago Fire Farm's converted hat workshop, OPTIMO

Photograph © Tom Rossiter.

Photography/ Tom Rossiter & Tom Fowler & AJ Trela ​​.
All Images Courtesy of SOM.

OPTIMOPerhaps you are a bit strange to this name, the charm of its handmade hats sweeps across the United States, from the 20th century influential blues legendary singer John Lee Hooker to the contemporary character actor Johnny Depp in the movie "Public Enemies" (Public Enemies) ) wear it all. The 25-year-old men's handmade hat brand OPTIMO has a memory of the golden age of Hollywood in the torrent of time. It is the heritage of traditional craftsmanship, the highest honor of hand-made caps, or a black movie in a boy's heart. Dream (Film noir).

Johnny Depp in the movie "The No. 1 Public Enemy" wears OPTIMO. Image Source: OPTIMO Facebook.
Johnny Depp in the movie "The No. 1 Public Enemy" wears OPTIMO. Image Source: OPTIMO Facebook.

OPTIMO founder Graham Thompson is fascinated by hats, from Hollywood's "black movie" (Film noir, film style belonging to detective films or crime films), and the hat and cowboy hat worn by the characters in the play. Deeply attracted to him; since then, the hat has become a must-have symbol for men in his heart. In 1995, Graham officially consulted Johnny Tyus, the traditional hat-maker of the South, and took over the handmade hat shop after he retired. With this passion and obsession, he passed on the traditional hat-making skills in Chicago, USA, and will "handmade." The value of the brand has been carried forward, leading the trend of custom-made caps with a rigorous attitude.

Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Fowler.

American culture is greatly influenced by the United Kingdom, which also includes the British "cap culture." There is a saying in English that "Take one's hat off to (someone)" means "to pay tribute to someone" and deeply demonstrates the social etiquette that cap culture represents in English culture. A person's hat can also replace words, convey their status, identity, occupation, etc. - To some extent, the choice of hats reflects the important face of the British wear culture. From Elizabeth II to Princess Diana of England, the hat has long been regarded not only as a daily accessory, but also as a part of "wearing art"; the OPTIMO, which inherits the hat culture and the traditional hat-making technology, is located in the southern city of Chicago, USA. Foley, a fire brigade building that was established in 1915, was turned into a studio full of "artworks", and the needles were continuously hand-made in a row.

Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.

In this 100-year-old building that encapsulates the memory of the city, OPTIMO inherits traditional and local memories and creates a future map. New home by world-class architectural design company Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM for short)Responsible, the overall space is divided into two floors, with black steel beams, walnut and softwood as the main materials, and the modern industrial style is integrated into the century-old building, making the classic temperament of the OPTIMO brand more visible.

Photograph © Tom Rossiter.

"We think and design this small work with high standards and bring proud results. This work links the far-reaching history of South Chicago craftsmanship and it becomes a story of the city." - SOM

Photograph © Tom Rossiter.

"We think and design this small work with high standards and bring proud results. This work links the far-reaching history of South Chicago craftsmanship and it becomes a story of the city." - SOM

Photograph © Tom Rossiter.

Under the transformation of the SOM design team, the high space used to park fire engines in the past was transformed into the working building of OPTIMO; the second floor was used as a rest space with kitchen and office. Gaze at the broad space of the first floor, or the new or old work machine is uniformly painted into a calm and restrained matte black, and the luxuriant atmosphere echoes the overall style. The rotating machine allows the craftsman to easily view the finished work. After a series of auditing levels, the finished hats and hats are displayed in a row on the rack. Once you enter the door, you can see the large hat wall extending from the floor to the ceiling. You can understand the title of the brand without words - a kingdom of handmade hats.

Photograph © Tom Rossiter.

Photograph © Tom Rossiter.

Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Fowler.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © AJ Trela.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.

Continuing the style of the first floor, the second floor space center is equipped with a hand-made circular lamp with a diameter of about 10 feet as the main ambient lighting; under the soft light, there is a reception room on the side for entertaining customers and discussing design. An open display rack similar to the first floor, with the walnut workbench, extends the space on the first floor. The design team preserved the original walls of the building, accompanied by the portholes on the ground that were originally inspected by the fire brigade. In the new style of furniture and decoration, they led people into the journey of recollection of history.

Photograph © Tom Rossiter.

Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © AJ Trela ​​& Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.

And its work is the same as the planning of OPTIMO headquarters, without deviating from the proposition of inheritance and emotion. The hats are named after "The 47th Street", "The Rush Street" and "The Hyde Park", all of which are handmade hats in the name of city streets. At the same time, OPTIMO also has works named after the world's great people, such as recent works. "The Frank Lloyd Wright" is the architect Frank Lloyd Wright who commemorates the greatest building in the history of the United States, "The Falling Waters". Through the needle and the line, the legendary architect's life is carefully written.

Photograph © Tom Rossiter.
Photograph © Tom Rossiter.

The creation of OPTIMO is the fulfillment of Graham Thompson's childhood dreams and the inheritance and display of the craftsman spirit. Rooted in the border between tradition and history, riding on a sailboat symbolizing "effort" and "practice", OPTIMO slowly sails towards an unknown and splendid journey.

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