A good hat will frame your face just so—its brim just wide enough to complement the visage beneath, while adding a dash of allure to your everyday ensemble. Think of Holly Golightly in her beribboned Chapeau du Matin in Breakfast at Tiffany's and you'll catch our drift. And yet, when it comes to packing these delicate accessories, the options are far and few between.
Lindsay McConnon and Linsay Radcliffe, the two ladies behind the luxury accessories label Freya, felt the same and, thankfully for us, were driven to do something about it. Friends since they bumped into each other at their daughters' kindergarten, the effervescent McConnon and equally ebullient Radcliffe (who recently relocated to San Francisco from Houston), soon discovered their shared passion for travel, adventure and, of course, hats. An initial lamentation on the lack of stylish hat carriers resulted in the charismatic duo taking matters into their own hands. What started as an off-the-cuff idea by Radcliffe became a concrete product that also draws on McConnon's expertise as a savvy retail and e-commerce entrepreneur.
In addition to running their own label, both women are also full-time moms—Radcliffe is a mother of two whilst McConnon has three young kids. But they've managed to turn Freya into a reality, thanks in part to a great partnership and a disciplined work ethic, after a year of painstaking design, sourcing and refining to develop their final product. This month saw the online launch of the Poppy ($890-$990), a Vogue-worthy carry-on that harks back to a time when travel was glamorous and luggage was the product of artisanal expertise. Handmade in Tuscany by a family of artisans who have been crafting leather bags for the last four generations, the case is available in a très chic palette of colors including French blue, black croc and wine red. Each box bag also features a nattily designed (and ergonomic) swivel strap accented with metallic hardware, along with a detachable leather shoulder strap. Slip in your 13-inch laptop and overnight dopp kit, and you're ready for take-off. A row of elasticized silk interior pockets also keeps your valuables safely in place, while the lightweight but sturdy wooden scaffolding that gives the box its shape protects your precious hats from getting squashed in transit.
The hat-toting pair, each sporting a bespoke Hampui Medicine hat (McConnon's had a pheasant feather stuck jauntily in its band; Radcliffe's included an engraved Spanish medallion), named their brand after the British-Italian author and adventurer, Dame Freya Stark, whose intrepid forays into the Middle East came at a time when few other Westerners had ventured through the region. Her pioneering spirit, along with the wit and exuberance with which she chronicled her travels, inspired the aesthetic of the brand. In fact, numerous pictures of her showed a charming lady bedecked in a hat, often photographed in an exotic locale. McConnon and Radcliffe reimagined their hat box for a modern-day Freya—one who went boldly in search of adventure, and who did so with grace and in style.
The details, of course, mattered as much as the destination. A closer peek at the Poppy's custom-printed silk lining reveals an Art Nouveau–style pattern that drew inspiration from the flora and fauna of Afghanistan, where Stark once traveled. The Mini Poppy ($590-$650) is a scaled down version of the larger carrier and makes for a gorgeous little handbag. Roomy enough to slip in all the essentials and more, the latest silk lining will feature hand-drawn camels illustrated by artist Xavier Cisneros. With its vintage silhouette, we're already eyeing the metallic red Mini Poppy as our next statement piece. After all, travel might be about experiencing the journey, but it doesn't hurt to arrive in style.
Travel tips from the Freya ladies:
- Best for on-board pampering: Dr Dan's lip balm. Great for chapped and dry lips, just apply overnight and wake up to baby-smooth lips in the morning. Both ladies swear by it.
- Best way to unwind after an eight-hour flight: A glass of Champagne or a soak in a hot bath with a face mask—or both. Try Epicuren's Hydrating Mineral Mask to ease signs of sleepiness.
- Best travel lippy: McConnon is a fan of Sephora's Oil Infusion, which provides intense color without the stickiness; Radcliffe never leaves home without her Sisley Paris Lip Balm.
- Best bring-along fashion accessory: A well-made hat, along with their custom-designed silk scarves, which provide just the right pop of color for an outfit.
- Best in-flight entertainment: A Kindle loaded up with a good read. Both highly recommend Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad.
// Shop Freya online at thefreyabrand.com.