ABOVE THE BRIM... with FITTED
With the world at war, global warming and I LOVE New York on VH-1, there are more serious issues to focus on than fitted caps. Doesn't your moment of deep reflection call for a superbly fitting thinking cap?
FITTED has just the answer for that. More than just a prime vacation spot, the Hawaiian islands are rich in culture, history and scenic beauty. It's also home to what some refer to as the fitted mecca, aptly titled, FITTED. Don't let the leis, waves and fine women fool you, founders/owners, KEOLA "OLA" RAPOZO and RENE MATTHYSSEN are serious about their headwear. STRICTLY FITTEDS caught a flight, and spent some time getting to know what makes FITTED tick.
The full length exclusive article follows after the jump >>
SF: You own what many people consider to be "THE" definitive store for fitted caps. Why did you choose to carry fitteds exclusively?
R: Basically because nobody was offering what I was looking for, Fitted was created so I could have access to good caps.
SF: In an recent article we called the flexi-fit "the unholy union between fitteds and adjustables", what's your take on the hybrid cap?
R: No comment.
O: Those things never fit me right!
SF: FITTED HAWAII has is known for producing custom NEW ERA 59Fifties in exciting color flips. Do the vibrant colors of the island's tropical setting inspire you?
O: Hawaii is filled with inspiration. Every where you look there is something that's inspiring.
SF: Everyone loves a good flashback sequence. How did FITTED HAWAII begin?
R: It started with the initial idea and me thinking how I could convince Ola into leaving his 9 to 5 to do FITTED 24/7. It wasn't hard since he has such a passion for the game.
O: I got a call from Rene and he had the idea. He described it as an idea he gets once every 5 years. I'ts now or never, the timing was right. Execution was the most challenging aspect of our business, not to mention the most fun.
SF: What single factor do think has contributed most to the "rebirth" of the fitted cap?
R: I have to give credit where credit is due and the whole custom sneaker thing has definitely been a major factor.
O: The creativity of taking a classic piece and seeing what you can come up with. The illest brands in the game did New era's, Great New Era's. The 5950's quality, construction an sensibility make it an undeniable icon.
SF: The sizing sticker on the brim has become a signature look for many fitted cap wearers. The NEW ERA flagship store regularly gets requests for replacements. Trash it or flash it?
O: We got a Rule around the shop that started as a joke. If you're over 25
your sticker goes on the wall in the back! Now we got choke stickers on the wall.
R: If you're over 25 years old.. lose the sticker.
SF: What makes the Hawaiian islands an ideal place to open a boutique for fitted caps?
R: Lots of sunshine.
O: It's Hawaii! This is where our roots are buried. Carving out a crease for ourselves and being able to do it from the place that we come from is what's really good!
SF: Trendsetters come from every corner of the globe. What do you feel has been FITTED's impact on fitted cap culture?
R: That the cap is just as important as the kicks.
O: We put all the right products under one roof were its accessible to consumers. We offer unique products with a different perspective. We live on an island, that has alot of culture and a very unique lifestyle. The products we put out already have a different feel to them.
SF: We receive a lot of email requests about how to mass produce hats. How did your relationship with NEW ERA progress from a supplier to a manufactuer of your own custom fitted caps?
O: It started off slow, we needed NEW ERA to understand our vision. Being
that it hadn't really been done before. We had a lot of growing pains. We had always wanted our own brand hats from the start. We were really excited when we could do custom sports caps in different colorways, fabrics, etc. Since our inception, we have built a very strong connection with NEW ERA, and we look forward to the future.
SF: Over the past 5 years, the market for fitted caps has exploded. There are many new, young and hungry players in the game. More established companies have looked to collabs with niche lifestyle brands to hold their grip on the market. As a result, we have seen more creative products emerge. What are your predictions for the future of the fitted cap?
O: I think the limits of designs will get pushed further. You'll see crazy applications, handmade mods, different types of fabrics and prints. But on the flip side, I firmly believe in the execution aspects of projects and how relevant they are. No matter how crazy loud all-over prints you design, if it doesn't make sense, it doesn't make sense! You can make something subtle, but if it's done right, the impact can be just the same as a loud design.
R: It is impossible to predict, but personally I would like to see a return to clean classic logos and colorways.
SF: How has the aftermarket hustle (eBay), has changed the face of the retail game?
O: It puts a price tag on things. It's like what the Beckett guide does for Baseball cards is what ebay does for other product. You really don't know what something is worth until someone buys it!
R: eBay sucks.
SF: What fitted styles would you like to see brought back? We are gunning for Spike Lee to re-release the 40 ACRES & A MULE fitted collection.
O: I can't remember if it was a fitted, but I'm biased to the old basketball and
football kits. The Raiders, Timberwolves, Spurs etc. the script ones. I think it was like early 90's! I believe the Hundreds did something similar. I thought those were fresh!
R: I would like to see New Era get the NFL licensce.
SF: What was the fastest selling cap you have had in the store?
O: It depends. Our Warrior & Pride hats sold out in a day. Any Crooks hats sells. Acapulco gold, any UH hats. Mishka hats did really well. It's hard to say. We have had so many different hats coming through the doors its hard to keep track.
R: Anything we put our name on.
SF: Can you give us an exclusive preview on some of your upcomming projects?
O: We got a really ill hat and T-shirt that we did with EVIL MONITO. I'm really hyped on that one. Our Spring line is dropping in a few weeks. We have a lot of products coming with that. We also have a Crooks collabo coming out very soon. We have just been really busy trying to keep up with our expectations. There's so many projects, but these are the closest to being released. Stay tuned, cause we plan on bringing you all good product for years to come.
SF: Thanks for taking the time out. Its been a real pleasure. Any shout outs?
O: Shouts to Strictly Fitted for shining light on this segment of the market, New Era, The Fam @ In4mation, Kicks Hawaii, A'ala park Board Shop, all my Hawaiians through out the world (one nation), Crooks, Estate, The weekly drop crew, the boys that hold the shop down, and to everyone that we work with... The whole Planet...Aloha
R: God bless.
1438 Kona Street, Suite B