Hip, hip beret

Berets were seen on the Dior fashion show (far left) and on singer Rihanna (left), both in Paris in March last year.
Berets were seen on the Dior fashion show (above) and on singer Rihanna, both in Paris in March last year.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Berets were seen on the Dior fashion show (far left) and on singer Rihanna (left), both in Paris in March last year.
Berets were seen on the Dior fashion show and on singer Rihanna (above), both in Paris in March last year.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The Frenchest of hats is growing in popularity, thanks to its chic appeal and versatility

PARIS • Hats off to Rihanna and the Kardashian clan for topping others in the fashion stakes.

Their go-to accessory? The beret.

The Frenchest of hats is now also the hippest, with makers struggling to keep up with demand from everyone from pop stars to the crowned heads of Europe.

Since Dior's Maria Grazia Chiuri sent out every one of her 68 models wearing one in her first autumn-winter show last March, the humble Pyrenean shepherd's hat has become the epitome of cool.

"I love berets because they're the T-shirt of hats," said Mr Stephen Jones, the British master milliner who helped create the cult Dior line for Chiuri.

"Young, old, rich, poor, male, female - the beret suits everybody," he added.

The black leather Dior version Rihanna wore to the show flew off the shelves and now sells for US$999 (S$1,320) on eBay.

Style icons as diverse as the Hadid sisters, the Jenner-Kardashians, the Duchess of Cambridge - a long-time fan - actress Meghan Markle and Princess Charlene of Monaco have all been photographed sporting berets.

Fashion critics also rejoiced at the beret's revival, with The Guardian declaring that it "may finally free us from our beanies".

Gucci and Marc Jacobs have also got in on the act while Laulhere, the last historic French beret maker, has been at full stretch to keep up with demand.

"Not only is the beret always chic, but you can wear it for every occasion," said Laulhere sales manager Mark Saunders.

He admitted that the modest Laulhere factory is swamped with orders, but insisted that there were no quick fixes to meet demand.

"It takes two days to make a beret and there is an incredible amount of handwork involved. It is a very complicated process, 80 per cent of it by hand," he added.

He said the beret's renaissance is no passing fad, but has been gathering pace since current owner, Cargo, rescued Laulhere from the brink of bankruptcy in 2012.

"We realised we had something quite amazing in our hands, something that was both a fantastic fashion and luxury item, which also had an incredible history and cultural importance," he added.

Having more than doubled the workforce to 55, Laulhere last year sold more than 300,000 berets.

With stores in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and now China clamouring for its hats, Mr Saunders said it will sell even more this year.

Retailer Sebastien Reveillard said the beret's timeless appeal was because it was "so hugely practical. You can wear it as a kind of cap, like the farmers do, backwards like Rihanna to show the label or sideways" at a rakish angle.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2018, with the headline 'Hip, hip beret'. Print Edition | Subscribe