Photos Jiro Maestu. Models Liz Lee and Dicko Chan. 

your new favorite bucket hats look like smashed cakes

The designer couple behind Poche are creating upcycled, cow print, and neon hats from our dreams.

by Laura Pitcher
|
08 July 2019, 12:01am

Photos Jiro Maestu. Models Liz Lee and Dicko Chan. 

Los Angeles-based hat design duo Jiro Maestu and Gabrielle Datau didn’t intend to design bucket hats that resemble smashed cakes, but after hand-sewing layers of scrap material to create what Jiro describes as “ruffled chaos”, it’s easy to see how they started to remind them of dessert. The couple launched their sustainable slow-fashion brand Poche in October 2018, creating up-cycled clothing for “everyday” wear.

Both having a background in fashion, Gabrielle stealing second-hand clothes as a teenager and reconstructing them into something new and Jiro starting with a Hello Kitty sewing machine form his mother at age 22, they met 5 years ago through a friend. “I guess she showed him a photo of me and was like ‘you should date this girl’,” says Gabrielle.

Taking their friends advice, they decided to go on a 6 month trip to Asia and Europe together just a month after they first met in 2014. Packing their home overlock machines and single needle machine, they traveled through Japan, Bali, and France, places that “represent their heritage." Jiro is Japanese American and French and Gabrielle is Indonesian American.

While traveling, they began to source fabrics in one city and sew them in the next. “We made over 50 pieces by the end of our trip. We were inspired by each of our immediate environments when traveling and decided to create a label [Poche] from our experience,” Jiro explains. “All of the pieces from our first mini collection were reiterations of pieces we made while traveling. We still reference them today.”

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Releasing the “mini-collection” in 2016, consisting of a small collection of clothing and accessories, they went on a hiatus shortly to further develop their skills individually and officially launched two years later. They first released bucket hats last year, which quickly became a key item for which they’re known for, enabling self-expression through unexpected patterns and distressed layers.

The pair describes their creative process as independent “with a lot of overlap.” Both involved in the sewing, pattern-making and grading, they describe their work as emotional and non-linear. “When we’re in the studio something will click and we’ll both start working on our own thing but then it always comes together as one,” explains Gabrielle.

They approach the process for each hat differently, layering their signature ruffled look with hand-sewn scraps. “Some need more work than others,” says Jiro. “I feel it out as I go without having a specific result in mind.”

While bucket hats are officially trending for 2019, the partners both have ill feelings towards that word and concept. When asked why they think bucket hats are currently so popular, Gabrielle first replies: “It’s interesting to me that we always feel compelled to illustrate time with distinctive patterns we see in fashion. It’s such a cyclical process and an intense framework for the creative process to navigate.”

Jiro then adds, “Creative purists would have a problem with making something they see everywhere already. With Poche, we feel comfortable continuing to push the concept of a hat because we make hats we can’t find. It really all starts with making them for myself.”

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With a background in what Gabrielle calls, “luxury fast fashion” it’s extremely important to her that the brand uses deadstock and vintage fabrics “as a means of demassification” after she became disenchanted with fashion production processes. Sourced by themselves in Los Angeles, these sustainable methods further add to the personal and unique designs of each hat. Their slow rhythm of production frees them from fashion deadlines and presentation schedules.

With many more hats to be hand-created in the horizon, Gabrielle hopes the future includes another traveling studio trip around the world, like the one that inspired the brand’s creation. She lists going to Bali and “democratising fashion through conducting creative sewing workshops for kids” as a future dream of hers.

In the nearer future, a special range of hats will be released at Union in Los Angeles this August, and a single Poche garment for Waka Waka furniture by Shin Okuda this September. They also are organising group fashion presentations on August 3rd in a new arts space called Murmurs in downtown Los Angeles.

Focused on sustainability through individuality, both Jiro and Gabrielle find it impossible to reduce the Poche customer to a singular identity. Instead, they hope that wearing a Poche garment will empower the wearer through creative self-expression.

“A friend once told me they were in New York in the winter and they wore their Poche hat and a puffer everyday and just felt fucking cute the entire time,” says Gabrielle. “I just want people to feel fucking cute.”

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This article originally appeared on i-D US.