Kori Giudici of Flipside Hats
Kori Giudici wants to put a hat on your head. "I get inspired by people's faces," said the Portland hat maker. "The shape of their heads, their coloring." Part of what she loves about selling hats is quickly assessing what will look good on a customer. "I have basically two or three chances to get a hat on them and get them hooked," she said. "I have to size them up, what they're wearing and their coloring, put the hat on them and get them to look in the mirror. People are self-conscious about looking in the mirror, and about hats. So it's a challenge." And one she's good at. As owner of Flipside Hats, Kori has made and sold tens of thousands of hats in the last five years.
Growing Up Creative
Kori grew up in the small mountain town of Newton, New Jersey, in a family of creative folks who enjoyed working with their hands. Her mother dabbled in interior design, faux finishing, sewing and watercolors. Kori's dad liked to build things. Her sister was good at everything artistic, and her brother loves to cook. Kori was a versatile kid who loved both sewing and sports. Tennis and basketball were her main games. Her father practiced sports with her, and her mother taught her to sew. She continued her sewing instruction in junior high home economics and as an elective in high school. "I took up sewing and stayed with it," she said. Kori also had another mentor, an artist named Susan who made earrings from leather and handmade paper. Kori's first job was molding leather for Susan's earring business.
Before settling in Portland, Kori lived in many places, including Atlanta, Montana, Bend, and Morocco, during a Peace Corps stint. While she helped Moroccans with maternal and child nutrition, they introduced her to a new world of color. "That whole period really opened up my fashion ideas," she said. Before Morocco, Kori lived in Montana, where she wore boot leg Levis and fitted cowboy shirts. In Morocco, she wore "bloomers, layers of skirts, long sleeves, my hair wrapped. Nothing matched at all," she said. "Then I got into the colors. The more it didn't match, the better it looked to me." She described the beauty of women walking across Morocco's barren landscape, the sun glinting off the golden threads in their brightly colored outfits. "It definitely influenced my taste," she said.
The Hat Doctor
After the Peace Corps, Kori lived in Bend, taking prerequisites for medical school and rock climbing in her free time. She also began making pillbox hats. When she got into naturopathic school, she moved to Portland, where her hat making style changed. She made her first P-town hat, one of the most popular in her line, for a friend's birthday. She soon realized her hats were in demand. "I would make a few, then sell them in the hallway at school for $20 apiece," she said. "By the time I graduated, I had a full-blown business." She named her business Flipside because her favorite grandmother nicknamed Kori "Flip" when she was a little girl. "She said I was always doing the flip of what other people would do," Kori said. Flipside is also a good name because the hats are all reversible.
The Allure of Hat Making
Kori likes seeing how people transform when they don a hat. Most of her hats have one side that's neutral, and the other that's wild. "When they'd flip the hat, their demeanor would change," she said. "It was like their inner wild side, even if they were wearing the neutral side. They knew that wild side was there." She also likes hats because they're an easy accessory. "You can wear a wild hat easier than you can wear a wild pair of pants," she said. "Partly because you don't have to look at it the whole time, and partly because a hat's such a small thing."
Flipside hats are made of organic, natural fabrics. The original P-Town is still one of her bestselling hats. Double stripes on one side and a close fit distinguish the P-Town from other hats. "People can fit it under their helmets," she said. "But it's not a cycling hat. It has more style."
Other hats feature appliqués of large flowers. Kori said she always turns to nature when picking appliqués.
Kori also makes kids' hats. Having a baby last year changed her hat styles. "It made me more practical," she said. Now her kids' hats have elastic or ties to help keep them on small heads.
Flipside has come a long way since Kori sold her hats in the halls of the naturopathic school. In 2002, during her second year of school, she began showing at the Urban Art Network Street Gallery. Another artist invited Kori to share a booth after seeing Kori's work in a backyard hat show. "To me, that was the big time," Kori said about her move to the Street Gallery. Last year she served as one of the UAN volunteer block captains, who make sure the show runs smoothly. "I felt honored that they would ask me," she said, adding that volunteering made her feel more connected to the group. She gives UAN President Jennifer Kapnek a lot of credit for the event's success. "It would fall apart without her," Kori said. "I'm constantly amazed at how amazing she is. I think everyone should be grateful for what she does."
In addition to the Street Gallery, Kori makes the round of neighborhood street fairs, and travels to music festivals up and down the coast. "It's really fun and gives us lots of exposure," she said. She sells hats in many local stores, including Presents of Mind, John Helmer, Frock, Stella's and Polliwog, and through her website.
Kori says that Portland lends itself to self expression and encouraging art. She advises other artists to start with an original idea, then, "Just go for it. Because somebody's going to like it."
Hats that Heal
Kori's roles in life include hat maker, doctor and mother. She's taken some time off doctoring to focus on motherhood, but is starting her own practice this fall. She and a friend from naturopathic school will open a new clinic on NE Alberta. One of Kori's goals is to eventually start a nonprofit integrative care clinic, making "great healthcare available to people who can't afford it," she said.
Kori envisions a future program where sales of certain hats will result in donations to breast cancer research. "This ties in my medical background and eco fashion with money going to funding research or helping people that need help."
Visit Kori at the Street Gallery, or check out her website at www.flipsidehats.com/magento.
—by Teresa Bergen