To say Vanessa Perez is an energetic, enthusiastic entrepreneur is an understatement. The Kailua mom simply brims with excitement about her latest venture, Henry Hats of Hawaii, named after her toddler, Henry.
Vanessa’s background is not in design and fashion. Her eclectic collection of previous careers has spanned the Australian Army, railroads, film and book publishing. Yup. She thrives on change and has no fear of the learning curve of a new career.
- Malia models the Malia cap, named after her.
The blond, blue-eyed Aussie is on a mission: “To get Hawaii kids in hats.” her own health history, having been diagnosed with skin cancers since the age of 16, is the impetus behind her new company; her son is the inspiration.
“I’ve been dealing with skin cancer for most of my life, so when I was pregnant with my son Henry I naturally wanted to protect him from the sun the moment he entered the world,” Vanessa said. “I scoured stores and the Internet for cute flat caps for newborns, but couldn’t find anything. The brand hats were ridiculously overpriced and the cute, affordable hats were cheap in every way – poor quality, design and materials. Sometimes if you want something done right, you really do have to do it yourself.”
And so she did.
After a year of research and sourcing, and an aborted attempt to manufacture in Hawaii, Vanessa found an Aussie manufacturer in Bali (also a mom) who understood the passion to create the perfect keiki hat. Together they created an innovative snap feature that enables the cap to grow with the keiki, from newborn to tween. Seriously. It works. The hat grows with the keiki, expanding from 14 inches to 21 inches.
Vanessa refers to style of Henry Hats as “flat caps,” but they also go by the name driving cap, newsboy cap and Gatsby.
The infant hats are made of fine, whisper soft jersey with a satin lining. The keiki caps come in a variety of prints appropriate for girls and boys, such as madras and florals. She is currently introducing vintage fabrics and Hawaiian prints, as well as a “funky vintage Hawaiian print from the ’50s with the old (Honolulu) tram, Aloha Tower and okolehao.” She is also looking into sourcing organic fabrics with a goal to get Henry Hats of Hawaii into Whole Foods.
In Australian elementary schools, Vanessa said, kids are required to wear hats at recess. “When I came to Hawaii and saw that kids aren’t wearing hats, it blew my mind.” She is now working with the Hawaii Skin Cancer Coalition to encourage hats as part of a sun protection routine for island keiki. Her goal is to have a “hat policy” in Kailua schools “Before Henry is ready for school.”
Henry Hats of Hawaii is rapidly expanding into other accessories. Bow ties are already on the market and lanyards to attach hats to shirts or backpacks are coming soon. So are belts.
As an added bonus, each Henry Hats of Hawaii comes with a satin bag that’s just right for a travel shoe bag or “anything bag.”. The hats and bags sell as a package for $25 for the infant hat and $35 for the keiki hat.
Find Henry Hats of Hawaii at Red Pineapple in Ward Centre, Kai Boutique and Baby Showers in Kailua, or visit HenryHatsHawaii.com.
– Paula Rath