Casa de Rodriguez

Casa de Rodriguez

Photo: Casa de Rodriguez

Neighborhood: East Village
Type of Place: Hat Shops

I got a little lost on the way to a friend's house a few weeks ago.
Heading (the wrong way, it turned out) down Stanton Street, I ducked
into Case de Rodriguez, in equal parts because I liked the looks of the
hats in its windows and because I needed some directional help. What
I found there, beyond my bearings, was exactly the kind of shop that
makes me love writing this column.

In the shop portion of the space, you'll find wonderful hats (and some
great shoes, with other accessories arriving shortly—but I'll get to
later). In the back, you'll find David Rodriguez and a sewing machine.
You'll probably find his assistant, Nick, as well; and given David's
welcoming, sociable nature, you're likely to find a few friends who've
dropped in to say hello. You will not find any exploited sweatshop
laborers, toxic work conditions, or blaring announcements of a sale in
Aisle 3. You will not find a receipt thanking you for being customer
36,841,002. Creativity, good-humored determination, a dream (literally
and otherwise), and a sewing machines: That’s what started Casa de
Rodriguez and keeps it going; that’s what fills the shop’s work space;
and that’s the spirit that makes writing about stores the inspiring and
even joyful experience it can be.

David and his wife, Jody, met at design school in Los Angeles in the
early 90s. After David had a dream—the while-sleeping sort—about
making a hat, Casa de Rodriguez was born, with the couple at first
designing caps and hats for the SoCal surfing set. They came to NYC
in ’96 and arrived at this space on Stanton Street 2 years ago. David
was too tactful to tell me so directly, but I saw on the CdR website
Alicia Keys, Leonardo Di Caprio, Donna Summer, Val Kilmer,.Busta
Rhymes, Melissa Etheridge, and Mary J. Blige have been customers.
Though the company has been and remains a joint creative effort,
these days you’ll more often find David at the shop/studio’s sewing
machine and Jody holding down the fort at home with the couple’s two
young children. “New arrivals” of other types are expected here as
Shoes have recently entered the mix, and belts, earrings, necklaces,
and some vintage pieces are coming soon.

Traditional hats, I learned from David, are blocked; but CdR hats are
cut and sewn from flat patterns, providing the designers more freedom
to use various textiles and shapes and to create hats for which the
fabric leads the design. As David describes things, CdR is going for an
"eclectic, funky chic.” As a friend visiting the studio when I dropped
explained, "Putting on one of these hats gives you the confidence to go
out and be all kinds of interesting versions of yourself. People are
drawn to you when you wear one."

A few notables: The "Guatemalan Striped Fedora, “$140; the
“Gardening Sombrero” (with the words "My garden kicks ass" in neat
type on the brim), $240; a lovely pink cloche with a yellow flower,
and a green and beige "Airline Bonnet" based on old-school
stewardesses wear, $180. Shoewise, I loved the chic whimsy of
Barbara Bucci’s flower-print wedges adorned with a cloth butterfly.

Terrific shop, great designs, and an inspiring vision and zest:
Sometimes a wrong turn takes us exactly where we should be.
  - Pamela Grossman; May 24, 2005

Casa de Rodriguez
156 Stanton St.
New York, NY 10002