On March 4th, Fat Hat clothing in Quechee was on track for its most profitable quarter ever. The brand’s easy-to-wear designs were in catalogues, such as Artful Home, and over 200 stores. That day, a truck left Los Angeles loaded with fabric destined for Fat Hat’s factory in New York City. Shortly after, California declared a state of emergency, and by the time the truck arrived in New York, a state of emergency had been declared there, too.

“It got to New York to unload and there was nobody there,” says Joan Ecker, founder and designer at Fat Hat. “Nobody was allowed to be. The elevators were shut down and the guy’s in the truck with all the fabric, with no place to go.” She couldn’t send it back to California, so the cloth sat in the truck for four days before she found someone in Long Island who could hold it. It’s still there today, waiting for the economy to reopen. Unable to continue production, and with further shutdowns closing their sales outlets, Joan and the Fat Hat team found a new direction: using their existing fabric supply to sew and donate face masks to those in the Upper Valley who need them. 

The face mask project emphasizes the family in family business. Joan cuts and irons the fabric herself, which her daughter’s boyfriend Leon Guedel then sews. Her daughter Jen organizes mask delivery while her other daughter Sara comes in once a week to staff the phones. Fat Hat’s main sewer, Lak Vorachak, and her sister-in-law, Linda Louangkhoth, continue to work from home. Another employee, Erica O’Hara, cuts more fabric in the basement. Fat Hat has already produced over 1,300 masks, which have found their way to housing developments, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the Veterans Administration Hospital, local grocery stores, the correctional system, and more.

Community members can support Fat Hat’s efforts and help keep them in business by purchasing gift certificates. Fat Hat is also gladly accepting phone orders for clothing that they have in stock. “We are sitting here waiting for those phone calls happily, and we love to hear from people,” Joan says. “We’re like personal shoppers.” Given their expert questions about fit preferences and custom alterations, Fat Hat has gotten almost no returns.

And really, what better way to help a local business than by having your style personally customized by your brand’s designer herself? A new outfit might be just the thing to bring a little brightness into some difficult days.

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To order a Fat Hat Face Mask for pick up or delivery, call (802) 296-6646. You can also browse Fat Hat’s clothing collections at https://fathat.com/ and find them on Facebook. Orders must be made over the phone.

Vital Communities will be posting periodic updates on local businesses who have adapted to continue providing services for the Upper Valley. If you have a story for us to share, please email info@vitalcommunities.org.