ESENSHEL’s Rodney Patterson: The Mad Hatter of Manhattan

Rodney Patterson – Photo by John Ricardel

Next week promises to be a ‘heady’ week for fashion, and I’m not just referring to the Met Gala on Monday evening. The 41st Annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards luncheon takes place on Wednesday. Co-Chaired by Aileen Bruner and Ann Byers, Conservancy Docents, it is a fashion spectacle where hats take center stage.

It’s almost impossible to outdo many of the guests who come dressed to the nines, many paying homage to nature with hats that defy description and gravity. Last year, one woman, Jennifer Suh Whitfeld, stood out in a sea of flowers, butterflies, feathers, and pastels.

Jennifer Suh Whitfeld wearing a towering hat by Esenshel Photo

Whitfield looked cool and modern in a sharp white pantsuit and black shirt, accessorized with a towering black and ivory striped headpiece from ESENSHEL, a unique headwear collection for men and women founded in 2016.

“The hats are about fun, joy, expression, escape, and transformation. I make hats as a form of creative expression. I created the shop to witness the joy and transformation that happens when someone tries on the hats.”

Rodney Patterson, Creative Director and Founder of ESENSHEL.

Rodney Patterson, the Chicago-born New York City-based creative director and founder of ESENSHEL, is easily the hippest, coolest milliner in town. ESENSHEL’S motto is, “Where art meets commerce and the crazy in my head.”

Monsieur Poppi wears the ESENSHSEL Russian Cuff Hat in turquoise wool

Rodney’s hats are worn by an exciting and eclectic clientele that includes Rihanna, JLO, Billy Porter, Janelle Monae, Monsieur Poppi, a Brooklyn-based artist and illustrator based in Brooklyn, the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas Jean and Valerie, celebrated dandy Patrick McDonald, and many more.

Alva Chinn wearing a Ralph Lauren Collection pantsuit, The Row Loafers, and an ESENSHEL hat on the May cover of Town & Country – Photo by Walter Chin

Alva Chinn looks marvelously chic, gracing the May cover of Town & Country wearing a Ralph Lauren Collection pantsuit, The Row loafers, and the “Mountain Tall Crown Curved Brim Hat” by ESENSHEL. The issue celebrates the Battle of Versailles at 50 and the “arrival of Black models as a force in fashion,” writes Bridget Foley in an accompanying article.

Adam Lippes Fall 2023 Ready-to-Wear – Photo by Paul Westlake

Rodney designed the marvelous hats in Adam Lippes’ Spring 2023 ready-to-wear runway show. Several of his hats were used to accessorize outfits in the Adam Lippes Fall 2023 Lookbook. In the past, Rodney has collaborated with R13, LaPointe, and Christian Siriano, to name just a few.

Adam Lippes Spring 2023 Ready-to-Wear – Photo by Paolo Lanzi/

Patterson began making hats after purchasing a hat online which he manipulated, cut down, and removed the feathers. When Rodney wore his creation on the streets, it got a considerable response, and people asked where he got the hat and who made it. “I tried to take it to a hat maker to make more, but it cost too much. So I started making the hats myself.”

ESENSHEL Spring 2023 – Photo by Rex Lott

Rodney offers a fresh modern take on hat making. He puts his unique spin on headwear by pushing outside the conventional realm and instead experimenting with shapes, proportions, and sewing techniques. “ESENSHEL is about classic men’s style hats being reinterpreted. Instead of the hat being 3-4 inches, my hats are 5-6 inches sometimes. Sometimes they’re wider; sometimes, they’re narrower. It’s just about playing with proportions.”

ESENSHEL Big Smashed Fedora Hat in Royal Hemp – Photo by Rex Lott

Part of the appeal of Patterson’s designs, which emphasize luxurious details from fabric selection to the workmanship involved in customization, is that they are familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. Something is always “slightly off,” which makes the design feel new, Patterson notes. “I’ve always liked hats for their transformative nature,” he says. “You can have on clothing, but if you throw on a hat, you are now wearing an outfit.”

Inside the ESENSHEL Shop – photo by Instagram

The ESENSHEL spring 2023 collection is available in his East Village retail shop at 67 East 4th Street, 917 451 5486, and online at Priced from $275 to $625, the hemp hats are offered in 13 colors, including ivory, red, magenta, chartreuse, and ivory and black or black and pink stripes.

Rodney says that several guests on Monday evening will be wearing one of his hats, and at least 3 or 4 people (that he know of) will wear one of his conversation -starting, head-turning chapeaus to the upcoming FLO Awards Luncheon. I will be one of them.

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Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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