Susan van der Linde
Smiling, a lovely woman said “I just saw your window, and had to come in.” She was intrigued by the beautiful hat display at Susan van der Linde’s current location on 67th Street. She walked around, flirting with a few different styles before finding her way out, promising to return. “It is fantastic to be on the ground level,” Susan said delightedly. She went on to tell me that she worked as a seamstress on the second floor in the Lombardy Hotel and formally opened her label on the fourth floor of a building on 57th Street in 1995. Relocated to 67th in 2014, her small boutique is certainly a standout with its well-crafted styles and warm personal service.
The interior of the shop boasts a clean, museum-like light system, a neutral backdrop, and attractive shelving, allowing the focus to be on the colorful and textured fashions. From her wide-brimmed hat made of horsehair and straw, with a luscious navy silk bow, to her round-crowned chapeau of organically draped brown sinamay, each of Susan’s creations is innovative with stylish whim. Though known for hats, she also sells a classic loafer, which comes in many colors, and is fabricated in Italy with a comfortable vibram sole. In 2012, bags and clothes were added to the collection. I could not help but run my fingers over a vibrant orange handbag made of water buffalo leather.
Sewing clothing since the age of ten and receiving formal training at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), Susan first became “infected with the passion of making hats” when she apprenticed under the esteemed Milliner Don Marshall in Paris. “He taught me that hats have to look like human hands never touched them,” Susan explained. “No stitches should show. And to never underestimate what I learn from a client, to always adapt.” When the beehive style became popular during the 1960s and hat wearing phased out, Don Marshall was one to make intricate fascinators and veiled caplets, adjusting to his clientele.
When Susan meets a client, she is always looking for clues. In contrast to autopilot salesmen, who fit customers to their hats, Susan fits her hats to her customers, a luxury achieved by being a small business with the designer on premise, sewing away downstairs. “If someone likes a style they see here, but she wants it in acid green, I can do that.” A person going on a safari will need a wrap-around, so the hat does not blow off. “I love seeing my client’s lifestyle,” Susan clarified when discussing her trunk shows, “it tells me what she needs.” And Susan most certainly complies.