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Seattle Hat Designer Makes Personal Connections with Cruise Passengers

July 10, 2024

Every hat tells a story. Jamie Slye, the founder and designer of Seattle-based Jamie Slye Hats + Accessories, is on a mission to create distinct, high-quality hats that compliment unique personalities and empower people to express their own personal style. Slye wants to help her customers find a hat they can connect with.

Based on this philosophy, Slye designed and named many of her hats for the personalities of important people in her life. The “Viv,” a short-brim asymmetrical crown fedora, is named after her outspoken, spunky grandmother. The “Kenny,” a wide felt flat brim fedora, is named after her grandfather, a talented horseman, and is made for the person who wears their passions on their sleeve. The “Joyce,” a wool-felt asymmetrical cloche, is named for her other grandmother and is feminine, respected, and chic. The "Phoebe," the best-selling wide-brim wool hat,  named after Slye’s childhood friend, is made for the free-spirited, the adventurous, and the inspired. “Are you more of a free-spirited person? Are you adventurous? Are you spunky and fun? We’ll find the hat that fits your personality. Of course, everybody makes a hat their own, but that's my starting place,” Slye said.

In summer 2023 Slye opened a pop-up, brick-and-mortar space to showcase her hats on Fifth Avenue in downtown Seattle through Seattle Restored, a city-funded program with a mission to revitalize downtown Seattle. She filled the space with her high-quality, wearable hats and atmosphere and played her grandparents’ records in the background, providing a soundtrack while people shopped. 

The storefront activation recently came to an end, which enabled her expansion of the online and wholesale businesses, selling to retailers in the Pacific Northwest and across the country. She also is planning pop-up events around Seattle this summer and you can schedule one of her popular Trunk Try-Ons.  

Creating a personal connection


Slye’s work has always revolved around creating something personal for her customers. When she started designing bridal headpieces a little over 10 years ago, she worked with each bride to create something unique and meaningful. Personal details like lace from a bride’s mother's wedding gown or grandmother’s broach were woven into each piece. 

Now Slye brings in the same thoughtfulness for her customers as a hat designer. She's intentional about materials and design. All of Slye’s hats are unisex, designed in Seattle, and constructed on the East Coast. She draws from a fun, but neutral and wearable color palette, opting for softer colors like sky, quartz, and burnt orange; or neutral hues like camel, silver sand, and black. All materials are sourced from the U.S., which includes wool, leather, and trims. “I like to tell people, when you purchase one of my hats, you're not just supporting me and my business. You're supporting a long history of U.S. hat-making, which is very hard to come by these days,” she said.

Navigating cruise


Over the 2023 and 2024 Alaska cruise seasons, Slye forged new connections that have boosted her business. Many cruise passengers found their way into her shop before or after their cruise, and she secured a partnership with Holland America Line (HAL) to bring her hats into its Denali National Park shops in Alaska. Her hats can be found in shops at McKinley Chalet Resort and Denali Princess Wilderness National Park. 

Now in its 25th year of cruises between Seattle and Alaska, cruise tourism has become a significant part of the local economy, contributing to hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs, and bringing nearly $900 million to the region in economic impact, bolstering small, local businesses like Slye’s.

Traditionally, hat shops like Slye’s are a destination for people who have researched the shop in advance and are serious about buying a hat. But Slye said tourists and cruise passengers have resulted in another type of customer. “A lot of people just walking past were very surprised to see a hat shop, and also were very happy to see one because they realized that they would actually be able to use a hat for their travels,” Slye said.


With tourists flooding downtown during the summer, Slye has loved meeting the new people who walked into her shop. She made a point to learn where they’re from and what brought them to Seattle. In summer 2023 at least 80% of Slye’s customers were cruise passengers. “Anytime anybody's visiting anywhere, they want to shop and find something that reminds them of their travels. And I think hats really do that for people,” she said.

Slye started thinking of ways to shift her product and design to meet the needs of cruise passengers and whether a hat could easily be carried on airplanes or cruise ships.

“Can they take their hat on their cruises and all their adventures and feel like it's a great travel companion? My hats already do that because most of them are packable, so they're really easy to throw in your suitcase. But cruise passengers have made me think more about the utility of a hat when you're traveling.”

With traveler needs in mind, Slye designed the Jet-setter Hat Bag to give people a way to travel with their hats, appealing to tourists and cruise passengers who came through her shop. She also offers custom made-to-order hat racks. 

“The whole idea of having a lifestyle around hats is something I believe in,” she said.  She designs her hats to be easy to wear because she wants people to feel comfortable. She wants her hats to feel inviting for people because hats can traditionally be a little intimidating, especially for those who are not “hat people.” 

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