Born in São Paulo, Brazil, thirty-three years old Leandro Junqueira has spent most of his professional life in the IT industry as Front-End developer. But, creativity has mysterious ways, and his passion for design and crafted vintage-style beaver fur hats and natural curiosity lead him to make hats for himself by using traditional millinery techniques. He sparked interest and desires at many of his acquaintances, that soon all wanted his designs. Already known for his entrepreneurial spirit, Junqueira embarked on a new adventure and created his own brand of the custom made hats that bears his name. Currently, he lives and works in Munich, Germany where he also has a design studio.
Leandro talks passionately about the art of hatmaking and his beginnings in this artistry.
Do you think hats are making a comeback with the rise of the sartorial movement?
I believe a hat will always be a fundamental fashion accessory, and it will never be replaced. Hats are making a comeback because we are living in such times when people are more willing to be different. By wearing custom-made hats, they can express their personality. A custom hat adds uniqueness and makes me and my clients feel special.
Why did you choose to make hats?
I started making hats out of curiosity. I like to say “The hat passion found me even before I found my passion for making hats.” I grew up in Brazil. As a child, I was fascinated with hats worn by actors in the old Wild West movies. My mother used to say I have the soul of my grandfather who lived his life as a farmer. He used to wear a cowboy hat, and he handcrafted his own acoustic guitar. But the reasons why I started to make hats are simple: I could not find a proper hat that fitted me well for a reasonable price, while being nicely designed and of high quality. Most hats don’t fit perfectly on my head. Some years ago I bought a fedora hat in London from an artisan hatmaker. It was a simple model but it fitted very well. And, about two years ago I was playing guitar in my apartment wearing that particular hat when a thought came to my mind: “How hats are made?!” After that moment, I start to research and challenge myself to handcraft my own pieces.
What is the first hat that you ever created?
About two years ago I started designing hats for fun, and I still keep having fun doing it. For my first hat, I had an image in my head of what I wanted, but I was not sure if the result would be as I imagined it. When I was sixteen years old, I learned how to sew while working for a company that manufactures and designs sofas. So, I had the sewing skills. Then I bought some materials like beaver felt, some fabrics, and French grosgrain, and I was ready to design. I followed the process from my research about a hat making. I wanted to achieve vintage Wild West style, so I burned the hat as I saw other great hatmakers do. After it was partially ready. I was very happy and surprised with the result. I named it “Leo” because it was made for me. That hat became one of my favorites to this day.
The hat named “Leo”
When did you decide to start your own brand?
Well, since I made my first hat, I was wearing it more often. My friends started to ask me: “Where did you buy your hat?” and I always had to say: “I didn’t buy it. I made it.” They could not believe it as it is not common to have a friend who can handcraft hats. I could see an opportunity there as people seeing me wearing my hat wanted to buy one of my designs.
The hat named “Serpent”
A short funny story: one day I was walking in Munich city center (Marienplatz) wearing a black leather jacket, boots, and my handmade hat when I realized that a nice couple was staring at me maybe because of my look. I could not stop at that moment to say “hi” as I was going to an appointment. But on my way back I surprisingly faced one of them again at the center of Marienplatz, I smiled at him and said “I saw you before.” He replied saying the same to me, and we laughed about the unexpected situation. He asked me if I was a fashion designer and where he could buy a hat like mine. We talked for a moment and in the end he asked if I could design a hat for him, his wife, and his daughter. We remained friends until today. After that day I felt appreciated for my art, so I decided to create a brand that represents who I am.
Why did you choose to work in Munich?
Well, moving to Munich to live and work wasn’t really in my plans, I think it just happened. I am from São Paulo, and I have been traveling and living in some big cities such as London, New York, Berlin, Rome, and Paris. But I like Munich because it’s a very clean city, the nature is great, being so close to the mountains. Also, it is a safe city with many opportunities in technology, as my main profession is Software Engineer. I think Munich gave me good opportunities to grow.
Leandro Junqueira in his studio in Munich
How would you describe your signature design style?
I like to say that my signature is “The simple future vintage design.” I try to make my designs as unique as possible, focusing on the details and quality. Sometimes I like to add a hidden message inside the hat where it can’t be found and visible. Mostly, it is meaningful to me and the person I made a custom hat.
The hat named “Chocolate”
Are you ever in conflict with your own taste?
I would not say in conflict, but I keep overthinking about each hat I make. “How can I make it better? How to improve it?” When I design anything, I try to get to know the person, understand their style, personality, and what she/he would love to wear. Because for me each of us has something special. So, I try to design something that will make them happy and feel confident to wear it.
What kind of materials do you work with?
What differs a custom hat from a normal hat is the material used to craft it. I work with fine materials mostly beaver/rabbit felts, vintage fabrics, goat/sheep leather and French grosgrain. I like to craft my own leather sweatband (leather band inside the hat) by using the goat/sheep leather because it’s softer than a cow leather. The more often you wear the hat, the leather sweatband inside the hat gets the form of your head which makes it comfortable and possible to wear without disturbing you.
What’s your source of inspiration when you create hats?
I don’t have a specific source of inspiration but sometimes shades, shapes, or colors come to my mind and I think maybe it could be a nice design, mostly when I am on a plane, traveling to new places, listening to music, or playing guitar. Meeting new interesting people and personalities also influence my creativity. I save the ideas, then I follow my instinct and have fun making hats.
Why is handmade design so important to you?
I believe a product made by artisans has a special meaning and care. Artisans have a lot of dedication, love, and patience for crafting a handmade product. It takes time and effort to work on every detail, which makes the product very special. Our world is teaching new generations that things come easy and instantly into their hands, as fast as possible. Big corporations want to make as much profit as possible by reducing production costs, mostly by using machines to optimize the process. I truly believe nothing can replace a professional artisan and we should give more value and support for handmade products.
How long does it take for you to make a hat?
It depends. Normally, two to three weeks, but sometimes even months. It always depends on the style, design, and materials that will be used. Particularly for me, the designing part is the important process of thinking and rethinking about what could fit the person and finding the right materials and colors. It is also a fun part.
Leandro Junqueira in his studio in Munich
What’s your best-selling piece?
Well, I would not say the best-selling but the hat that everybody loves is the first hat that I made. I named it “Leo.” It is a beaver felt hat in tan color, with a grosgrain in olive color and a double bow. It has a burnished vintage look design with hand drawings on it. That hat is also one of my favorites.
How do you want people to feel when they wear your hat?
I want them to feel happy about the final result, as expected, but also confident that they’re wearing something unique.
Is there a celebrity you would like to make a hat for?
I am happy designing hats for all hat lovers that appreciate my art, but in Germany, I think it would be fun if I could design a custom hat for Heidi Klum, or in Brazil for the singer Anitta.
What is a dream that you would like to fulfill?
I am thirty-three years old, and I still have many dreams. I would love to design my own house one day, somewhere close to the beach or nature where I can have a 360-degree view to watch the sunrise and sunset from the living room.
Do you have your ideal hat?
Well, the ideal hat should be comfortable enough so I can wear it all day long. It has to survive the splash of rain at least, snow, or sunny days, and still keep a nice look. I love the vintage but simple design, a bit of burnished style, beaver felt in half cowboy shape with a medium brim and a few details of hand stitches around. I have many hats and love them all. They fit my outfit on different days and moods.
Seestrasse 175, 8700 Küsnacht, Switzerland
Vesna Filipovic and Vukota Brajovic for Fashionela