Walking into milliner Albertus Swanepoel's Manhattan studio is entering the space of a true creative. The South African-born designer has been in this studio for three years, and it's filled to the brim (pun intended) with felt, hat blocks, ribbons, reference books and photos and the various tools of the trade he and his team have amassed in their time here.
"It used to be an artist's loft," Swanepoel explained. "I used to be in a very small space in the building, but when this opened up, I jumped to get it."
The layout is conducive to Swanepoel's various needs, with a small showroom in the front, and an office and workspace in the back.
"The very high ceilings make it ideal for my hat trees, where I hang finished hats," he continued. "It has about 20 foot ceilings, a lot of light and a sleeping loft, which I can use for storage."
Given the long list of accomplishments he's racked up and the projects on which Swanepoel has worked, it's easy to see why that extra storage space is necessary. Albertus Swanepoel hats are sold everywhere from Barneys across the country to Tomorrow Land in Japan. He's been featured in Vogue, The New York Times, Elle and Time, has designed hats for Broadway shows and has been nominated for a CFDA Award. Collaborators read like a who's who of recent fashion history: Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, Thakoon, Jason Wu, Diane Von Furstenberg, Peter Som and Carolina Herrera, among others.
Should he decide to continue expanding that list, Swanepoel's studio puts him within walking distance of many of his peers.
"I like being of the edge of the Garment District," he said. "I'm in the original Fur District, or what used to be. I can easily walk a few blocks and get most of my materials. It saves a lot of time."
Still, as anyone familiar with New York real estate knows, even when you find a space you love, you can never get too comfortable.
"The neighborhood is changing a lot," Swanepoel noted. "I'm now close by the Ace and Nomad Hotels, Opening Ceremony and several other nice little places to eat. I really love my studio space and just hope it will not become a hotel or apartment building in the near future."
For more on Albertus Swanepoel, visit albertusswanepoel.com.