Women-Owned Business Series: Tracy Watts Hats in Gowanus

We had the pleasure of speaking with Tracy Watts who owns a hat design and manufacturing business. Victoria also stopped into the studio for a private tour! Read more below to learn more about Tracy Watts Hats, the pop-up they’ll be having in a few weeks, and view the photo gallery of their space!

 

Tell us about your business!

Tracywatts Inc. is a modern millinery brand. We design, manufacture, and distribute a full line of women’s hats from my studio in Gowanus. We are committed to the craft of millinery, using traditional hand blocking and sewing techniques, and vintage machinery.

 

Do you have any events coming up?.

Yes! We have a Pop-Up on May 4th at M. Patmos on Atlantic Avenue. There will also be an art exhibition in the store that day. It’s extra special when we get to partnering with a local brand and women run business!

 

Tell us a little about your background and why you feel a connection to your designs.

I grew up in Toronto, Canada. I studied art at the Ontario College of Art before moving to New York to be an artist and work for other sculptors. The transition from art to millinery was an easy one. Hats are very sculptural and require the same attention to form, line, balance, and texture. When I discovered that FIT had a millinery program, I jumped at the opportunity. I loved fashion growing up and had already been wearing and collecting hats for years! I started my business in Chelsea shortly after graduating from FIT.  

 

We’d like to know about your experience within your community.  Do you have a studio in a specific neighborhood and, if so, why did you choose the neighborhood that you did to open your business? How have you become involved within your community?

My studio is in Gowanus. I originally started my business with a small studio in Chelsea, but when the manufacturing part of the business took off I needed to be in an industrial zoned neighborhood. That was in 2007 and at the time the Garment District wasn’t welcoming to new manufacturing businesses with heavy machinery. Our building in Gowanus is a renovated 1800s knitwear factory. I moved in right when it was being converted from a factory into smaller studios. I love being connected to the history in the building and working along side other artists and makers in Gowanus.

 

What advice would you give to young women who want to open a small business?

It’s hard, but worth it! My number one advice would be to get a good lawyer and accountant right away. Number two would be to develop a community and support system. Learn from the people who have been doing it longer than you have, and make friends who can relate to the struggles and joys of having a small business in your field. There are a lot of woman makers out there today and it’s a really great community to be a part of.  

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