A few months ago on my way to a delicious dinner in Harlem, I saw a very interesting shop as I walked towards the corner of the street. I decided to walk in and I was instantly captivated by the walls of amazing hats: fedoras, bowler hats, top hats and more. The shop in question is FlameKeepers Hat Club, owned by hat maven Marc Williamson. I visited Marc at the store where we spoke about his inspirations, his love of creativity and why he loves Harlem.
MADELYN (HIGHLARK): Tell me about yourself?
MARC (FLAMEKEEPERS HAT CLUB): I’m a native New Yorker and a hatter for over 20 years.
MADELYN: What made you decide to open this particular store?
MARC: When I planned on opening a spot it was just a matter of where. I looked here in Harlem, the Lower East Side and in Brooklyn. I ultimately decided that Harlem was where I wanted to set it off.
MADELYN: Whats was it about Harlem that you liked enough to open the shop here?
MARC: One, there were men up here wearing hats. I also banked on the fact that me opening up in Harlem would be of note to the media, the newspapers, etc. The cache of Harlem, what it was at a certain point in time would definitely be of note.
MADELYN: Where did the idea for the name of the shop, FlameKeepers Hat Club, and the design of the shop come into fruition?
MARC: The name just came to me. We’re passing the torch of good taste from one generation to the next. In terms of the store’s design I wanted a modern space for hats. Hats are looked at as an old-fashioned thing and I’m going towards the future not looking back in the past as much.
MADELYN: What’s the process when you order and stock your hats?
MARC: I design a big portion of them. I also get hats from here in America, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic. All over.
MADELYN: What does fashion mean to you?
MARC: There was nothing that interested me about fashion, per se. I’m a visual guy so I like when I see people expressing themselves. So I am inspired by how people dress but also by art and music. I like fashion but it doesn’t mean to me as much besides seeing what people are saying about themselves. It may not even be creative but it’s a person telling you who they are by how they dress.
MADELYN: Any plans to expand the store or expand towards other types accessories?
MARC: Yes, I definitely want to open more than one store and have plans to expand into other things.
MADELYN: What inspires you?
MARC: I’m really inspired by things that are done well. A great song. Someone who puts together an outfit well. When I read an article with someone’s great story. So I’m inspired visually and by the human element.
MADELYN: How is the sense of community having a store here?
MARC: The store has been open about a year and a half. The support has been phenomenal. I get a lot of support from the community. Young and old. White and Black. All across the board. I have also gotten circulation in the media across the country.
MADELYN: You have a big presence on Instagram. Do you think social media changes how people are creative? How we are as consumers or even potential consumers?
MARC: All of the above. I think it’s changed people who are creative because you see other people who are creative. If you were never around other creatives you can really gauge yourself and say “ok I’m doing it” or “I need to step my game up”. It’s also another outlet for the consumer. You get to show your product in many different ways, where as if you have a commercial you have 30 seconds. On social media it’s 24 hours a day. I think it’s phenomenal for anyone who has a business. I also shoot all the photos on my Instagram page.
MADELYN: Any final thoughts?
MARC: To anyone who is creative, keep inspiring the world!
**FlameKeepers Hat Club is located at 273 W. 121st Street New York, New York 10027.