This time I present to you two Heroes in one. Polish-French duo won my heart with passion for … hats. They were the first to dare to open a unique hat shop in Krakow. They have the best quality products imported from different parts of the world. They also plan to expand their offer with products of their own authorship. Meet Karolina and Boris.
What is magical about these hats?
Karolina Kasza: The hat makes people smile, but it also attracts the attention of others.
Boris Gall: That’s right. During many festivals in France, I had a hat, a pure whim, nothing more. I did not think about setting up a brand at the time, it was just part of my outfit. This small element meant that many people approached me, talked and thanks to that I made many new acquaintances. People associated me as a “hat guy”, they remembered me. This was, among other things, the reason why we decided to open a hat shop in Krakow. One day while waiting on the street in Krakow for Karolina, people accosted me asking where they could find a similar hat, where I bought it. I realized that there is simply no place like that in Krakow. The magic also lies in the fact that they are associated with magical tales, such as Alice in Wonderland. Hence our logo, or a rabbit popping out of the hat. The hat hides magic, so is our store. We wanted this place to be different, unique, and also transport our customers to a different world. Even in old beliefs, hats have their place. It is said that they are to protect our thoughts. If you take care of your mind, you will also take care of the rest.
KK: Hats also change people. For me, magic is when customers try on new hats and are delighted with how they look. Their faces change as if they found the missing element in themselves. When we offer people specific models, we pay attention to the shape of the face, the color of the eyes, hair – every detail counts. Before trying, many of our customers say that they feel bad in hats. This is because the only hats they tried on were probably not just their grandfather, uncle or friend. Such a hat has no right to fit and look good, because it is not ours.
BG: The hat is the frame of our face. It highlights it and helps you focus on it, shows you who you really are.
Who started the passion for hats from?
KK: Definitely Boris. Before our first meeting, I wore hats, but I was not crazy at this point like Boris. I have always felt better and more comfortable in them, they were a kind of protection for me. The idea appeared in Boris’s mind, and I caught her and pushed her forward. We have created a place that is not in Krakow, and at the same time we do what we love and sell brands that we just like.
BG: It was also part of our dream to have our own brand. Having previous experience as an employee of a company, I associate it with stress and everyday haste. The first principle of our business is to take pleasure in what we do.
KK: I remember when Boris and his friend wrote out all the costs of business opening, risk and similar things like that. The first thought was “Do not do this”. But such thinking does not lead to anything, if we did not take this risk, we would not be in the place where we are.
Boris, did you find yourself in Poland because of Karolina?
BG: Yes, she is the reason I am here.
KK: I come from Świętokrzyskie, and I came to Krakow 10 years ago to study. Here for 8 years I was a manager in a restaurant and then I thought it would be my way of life. As you can see, the plans have changed.
BG: I lived in France, Karolina in Poland, and we met in Mauritius Island. At the beach, I suggested that she come to me for skiing, because I lived in the Alps. She agreed and two weeks later we met in France, and in the aftermath, I received an invitation from Karolina to Krakow. I made a ticket and I flew in.
Did you like it here?
BG: Yes, very much. I liked Polish reality and atmosphere here. After a short time, I flew back to Poland, then we went to the Valley of Five Ponds and said: “Poland is beautiful, they are not just drinking vodka!” I also wanted to move out of France, so when I met Karolina, it was a mix of love and opportunities to try a different life. At the moment, it’s my place where I feel good.
The entrance to your store is like a journey in time. How do customers receive this place and your brand?
BG: When we opened the shop in the winter, we were visited by several or a dozen people every day who could not get excited about the place. We also have customers from America or other countries who repeat that they do not have such a great store with hats. People are surprised to see such a place here in Krakow. That’s what we wanted. Create a place where we feel good as well as our clients.
KK: Exactly. We have created a place in a vintage style, in which we feel like in our own apartment. We did not want it to be like in a large shopping mall, where every store looks the same. I have my flowers here, we’ve chosen decorations for ourselves, I also know that I have to clean up here, take care of this place and the most beautiful thing is that people appreciate it. The question is often asked: “Who designed the interior?” and they are surprised when we reply that this is our job.
BG: It happens that people spend an hour or two here to buy a hat. They try, they can drink tea or coffee, sit down and listen to the vinyls.
KK: One time a Danish writer came to us. He did not buy a hat, but he sat on the chair and for a long time read Danish books that we have in her collection. He came here to relax and look for inspiration, it was magical.
Do you think that it is worth creating unusual brands such as yours in Poland today?
KK & BG: Of course, yes!
KK: I think that the awareness of people with small Polish brands is growing. Every day, we meet people who say that they prefer to buy in small local stores, from Polish designers. On the one hand, they want to find unique products for themselves, but it is also their support for such creators. I therefore encourage all creative and talented young people not to be afraid of opening their own business.
BG: We managed to get out of communism, and thus we came to capitalist communism. Everyone dresses the same, everyone buys the same things. It’s a bit of mock freedom. And that’s what we want to bring to life, handmade, high-quality products. It is known that this is associated with a higher price, but products from chain stores come, inter alia, from China, where attention is not paid to quality or ethical working conditions. In our store we also have hats from China, however, they are reliable distributors who are thoroughly checked under the aforementioned considerations. However, we want to support our backyard and about 90 percent of our hats come from Europe.
Are you planning to create hats from under your own hands?
BG: There will be hats that we will do ourselves, but also those that we will adapt in our own way. We started working with several brands, but we can not reveal details yet. Soon there will be effects!
Where do you see yourself and Le Szapo Hat in 5 years?
BG: Twenty thousand stores around the world, a big company. But seriously, five hours is enough.
KK: Five hours of what?
BG: Another five hours today! Every day is a new fate. I do not think we’re going so far into the future. Not so long ago we did not think that we would open our own hat shop, and today – we have a conversation in here. I have no idea what and where we will be doing.
KK: Maybe a shop in France?
BG: We will see.
Author: Karolina Kamińska