2 Ladies and a Hat Factory

I often feel I was born in the wrong decade. Don’t get me wrong – I love my iPod, iPhone, iAnything, but there is something magical about the days when people all wore hats! It’s such a simple accessory, but one that captures a simpler time – one I tend to crave.

Over Thanksgiving weekend I saw my old friend Malka Sender. From two little middle schoolers running around, we have blossomed into two working young ladies and held on to our BFF-ness. Malka has something about her, something that screams “I am going to save the world and look fabulous while doing it!!!” Anyone can see that. It’s kinda the first thing you notice about her. So when she announced she was moving from Los Angeles, where we grew up, to New York City, I was obviously a bit bummed. However, I knew she would do something great as soon as she got there. With the intention of going and being in the music business, Malka ended up taking over Fashion Avenue and Kickstarter.

Satya and Malka

At one time, 7th Avenue in New York City was the center of the garment industry, hosting factories, design studios and fabulous people. There is one thing missing from the equation in 2014: the factories. When Malka’s aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and began losing her hair, her cousin Satya Twena became a milliner (hat maker). Originally making the hats out of her home, Satya moved her operation to the last millinery factory on the historic Fashion Avenue in New York City. Truly in the center of the garment district, the factory, Makins on 35th Street and 7th Avenue, was a milliner institution, having made hats for Frank Sinatra and numerous editorials (including Brad Pitts’ hats in the W Magazine issue featuring him and Angelina Jolie).

When in October of 2013, Satya got a call that Makins was closing its doors and firing its staff, her and Malka would not stand for this. Their mission became to save the Makins factory. What else to do than start a Kickstarter campaign? So that’s what was done, and it was a huge success. Their mission was two fold: step one was buy the factory back and step two was to rehire the nine fired employees. Done and done.

The Kickstarter raised $135,930 – far above their $75,000 goal – from 1,103 backers. That’s an average of $123 donation per backer. Pretty impressive, if I do say so myself! Once they raised the money and the lease was in their name, it was time to get down and dirty; it was time to clean and remove years worth of grime from the windows, fixtures and floors.

New York fashion blogger Chloe Makhani and Malka

As of today, six employees have been rehired and things are looking just dandy for the milliners. Still raising money to further their efforts to get Makins in perfect working order, Satya, who started in her kitchen and was trained by night classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology, is selling her designs at Henri Bendel and bringing 7th Avenue back to its heyday.

As of January 3, 2014, the project was completed and successfully funded. The final tally was $171,966 from 1,379 backers.

Photo courtesy of Monroe Gallery, Kickstarter, New York Chloe

Filed Under