BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Louisiana natives Jenn Loftin and Karla Coreil decided to start a hat-making business while sitting at an airport.

The friends of over 10 years first met at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts. They reconnected years later and were in New York talking about the end of the pandemic when they got an idea.

“We were saying how great it is to be out in the world, and celebrating and spending time. And so in that particular moment is how we were like, ‘You know, what would be so fun?’ And so that led to Chapeaux,” Loftin said. “And we’re in the airport, and in the two hours that we had before our flight, we brainstormed so many of the things that have come to manifest themselves in what we know as Chapeaux.”

“Chapeaux” means hat in French. Loftin and Coreil make up the whole Chapeaux to Geaux company.

Setting priorities, learning the ropes were the first steps

The two decided the friendship came first, Coreil said. “And that if our friendship was going to be negatively affected, then we would just shut down the business.”

“I think that we’ve been great business partners, and were able to talk about anything. We don’t always agree, and we don’t always have the same ideas, but we come to the same result,” Coreil said.

“Learning to negotiate as part of a business together has been a thing we’ve learned,” Loftin said. “Carla has learned so much. She does all the terribly hard work around the website and our social media, and I do all the terribly hard work related to taxes and finances. So we’ve had, you know, to sort of negotiate that division of labor.”

“We’ve had to learn what appropriate pricing is. So that our work can be sustainable. And we can give people the quality of workmanship and materials that we would be proud of,” Loftin said.

What kind of hats and fascinators do they make?

“So we have different kinds of hats and different sizes, but mostly what we work on are fascinators,” Coreil said.

A fascinator is anything that sits on your head that has an attachment. Coreil said that it sits completely on your head. Fascinators can be attached with a headband, a comb or a cord — which is a very British style of attachment, according to Coreil.

Photo courtesy of Karla Coreil.

“So that’s the first step is deciding what size, what color what material the base is going to be. And by the base, we mean, the thing that actually sits right here. And then how is it going to attach to the wearer’s head,” Coreil said.

“But choosing all those things that make it extra special, it’s a ball, if it was a ballgown, what are the things that are going to glitter and catch the light and flatter your figure all those things? So the same design decisions go into a hat,” Loftin said.

For those with curly or textured hair, for example, Chapeaux to Geaux understands how to make the project work for you.

“I wear my comb in a different spot than Carla wears hers because I have long thick hair, and so it holds a comb very well. Carla’s hair is thick but short, and so she wears it in a different place,” Loftin said. “So it’s really just a matter of understanding what your need is.”

Clients share their visions, and these best friends make them a reality

Loftin summarized what they do into three categories:

  1. They make custom hats for clients.
  2. They create their own designs.
  3. They lead group parties.
Photo courtesy of Karla Coreil.

They learned how to work with clients to understand what the person really wants and how it should look in a dream-case scenario.

The pair has shipped hats to more than a dozen states and lost track of how many they have made, especially for those attending the Louisiana and Kentucky derbies.

For the Kentucky Derby, Coreil said she had a hat that spun around with horses racing down the track.

Coreil said a Chapeaux Party is a couture crafting experience where people can create their own fascinators with friends. Loftin and Coreil provide all materials, equipment and instructions.