Hatmaker Anthony Peto crowns the dapper and dandy streak in Dubliners

Anthony Peto opened his Dublin shop only last November - and already he’s about to expand

Anthony Peto grew up in England, went to Paris to become a chapelier 25 years ago and set up a prosperous hatmaking business, with celebrities like Sienna Miller and Philippe Starck wearing his designs.

So why did he come to Dublin last year to open a hat shop just off Grafton Street. “I love Dublin, have friends here, there’s a sense of community here.” He and his partner Vanessa spent a year looking for a house and bought one in Sandymount “which I absolutely love”.

And in November 2015, he opened his shop, called Antony Peto. His decision was "based on the fact that there wasn't really anything like it in the market. The challenge was to create interest, I saw the gap in the market; if I thought others were doing it, I wouldn't be interested."

He rented a 28sq m (300 sq ft) premises at 14 South Anne Street for about €35,000 a year - more rent than he pays in Paris. He believes his rates are reasonable.

He stocked the shop with the classic hats made in his Paris atelier and employed two people. Interest in the hats has been good: “I don’t expect to break even in the first year, but should in a couple of years. I also sell accessories that go with hats, like glasses and scarves,”

Now, just seven month later, he is about to expand by opening up the basement in June. “This will roughly double the floor space and allow us to expand into a whole range of new styles more directly aimed at women. The decoration will be more intimate and feminine than the ground floor, the hats will be more extravagant. A selection of jewellery and other accessories will also be presented.”

Peto’s hats, all hand-made in Paris, are classic shapes - for example, fedoras, trilbys, Panamas - in a variety of colours and material (including cotton, linen, straw and wool), suitable for men and women, He also makes caps, which start in price from €90, with hats ranging from around €120 to €160. He plans to start working more with Irish manufacturers, using Donegal tweed and linen.

His average customer here is aged around 40, half men, half women. As in Paris at the moment, he says, wide-brimmed hats are popular and although the average Irishman is conservative, he believes many “have a dandyish streak; they like to look at little bit dapper”.

After college, Peto started his career in London in the 1970s, editing an art magazine, but he inherited his interest in fashion: his parents, both from Budapest, emigrated to England after the second World War, settling in Leeds, where his father had a textile business. Peto's aunt, Judith Lieber, emigrated to New York, where she began a business making luxury handbags - Judith Lieber bags have been owned by every American first lady.

Peto lived in London for 10 years, before deciding on hat making: “It seems perfectly logical – I loved craft, making things, and there was no better place than Paris to learn how to design and make hats and to set up my fashion business.” Interest in wearing hats had waned but grew in the late 1980s, he says. “Hats for men got a boost when musicians and then young people started to wear them.”

He began his business in 1992 and it took off very quickly because there weren’t that many people making hats; designers began using hats on catwalks.

Peto’s hats continue to be made in his Paris atelier, where he employs 14 to 15 people making hats by hand. He says he is interested in structure and shape -- he does not make fascinators. “I can’t see a serious hat person buying one, except as a joke.”

Peto intends to keep his shop at 56 Rue Tiquetonne near Place des Victoires in Paris and the atelier nearby open, but may not open any more shops after Dublin. He sells through department stores like Galeries Lafayette in France and on websites in the US (Hartfordyork.com) and UK (lovehats.com).

As far as he’s concerned, he’s in Dublin to stay. “I lived for 25 years in Paris, speak fluent French, am very pro-French, but I never felt Parisian. I’m not planning on moving again.”