Hat Trick

In his West Palm Beach atelier, House of Clyde designer Scott Harper is reviving the fine art of millinery

Scott Harper, House of Clyde
Hailing from Guatemala by way of New Jersey, Scott Harper found his way to South Florida. He now creates custom hats in his studio near West Palm’s Grandview Public Market.
Photo by Nick Mele

It all started with a hat. We’ll soon get to that. Not to belabor the Cat in the Hat reference, but 41-year-old Scott Harper has lived many lives. His current incarnation is as a milliner, crafting custom caps from the surprisingly spacious West Palm Beach studio he carved out of a converted storage unit. For his clientele, the experience of creating these hats is as unforgettable as the compliments they elicit.

Yet it wasn’t always so obvious that Harper would one day find himself plying this trade. House of Clyde—the name an homage to Clyde May’s whiskey, the logo a nod to artist Jean-Michel Basquiat—has only been around for two years, but local style-savvy ladies and gentlemen are already clamoring for one of his bespoke pieces.

Scott Harper, House of Clyde 1
Photo by Nick Mele

Born in New Jersey, Harper lived a peripatetic childhood that landed him in Guatemala, his father’s homeland. As a teenager, he had difficulty focusing and wasn’t a keen student, so his mother enrolled him in a carpentry program at age 16. “Do something with the hands and the mind,” quips Harper, whose specialty was learning to make the marimba, a traditional Guatemalan xylophone.

This training would serve Harper well in the years to come. Shortly after completing his studies in carpentry, he moved with his family to Florida, finding work in Jupiter with a carpenter, crafting and installing cabinetry. The gig didn’t last long before the carpenter retired and Harper began grooming dogs for a living, eventually opening his own shop, Canino Pet Spa & Boutique, which he operated for nearly 20 years.

House of Clyde, Hat, PinkHarper’s life has taken many twists and turns. Yet those turns have led him to this moment, in this atelier, making these hats.

That gig as a dog groomer? It led to Harper meeting his Venezuelan-born wife, Dahiana. She is his model and muse, frequently featured in moody Instagram posts that capture the allure of House of Clyde hats in black-and-white images, many photographed in Paris, the couple’s favorite city.

The dog-grooming business? That led Harper to acquire the bakery next door and open House of Clyde, Hat, BrownTaco Chula, the beloved Palm Beach Gardens taqueria, the success of which has allowed him to focus on his career as a milliner.

Before embarking on that chapter, however, he tried his hand as an artist. His colorful oil canvases line the House of Clyde studio walls, mixing and mingling with Harper’s newfound expression in his hats.

As for that first hat? It was one he’d long owned but that had never quite fit correctly and was too simple. “It didn’t say what I needed it to say,” recalls Harper, who took it apart to see how it was made. He also started watching videos and reading books on the hat-making process. This led to taking apart even more hats, researching where to acquire the best materials, and trying again and again to get it right. “I had to learn everything in bits and pieces,” he says. “I had to beat my head against the wall for a long time to learn the patience it takes to make hats.”

House of Clyde, Hat, Beige

Two years later, House of Clyde was born. Under his label, Harper seeks to push the boundaries of traditional design. “People are tired of the same old, same old. People want to let their hat sing. They don’t want to simply be hangers for what they wear.”

Harper employs the best fabrics and millinery techniques. Beaver and rabbit felt is sourced from Tennessee. Ecuadorian straw bases are produced by a fourth-generation family of weavers. Trims are equally special: grosgrain ribbon from France, lush silk velvets from Switzerland. The headband is leather and can easily be replaced if damaged by perspiration.

Each hat is custom fitted and unique to the individual. Harper encourages clients to include aspects of their life story into the design, such as favorite trinkets and cherished pieces of jewelry. “There’s a nostalgia for wearing something that has been made expressly for you,” he notes.

The design process itself is fully collaborative. Harper provides an array of fabric samples, House of Clyde, Hat, Tantrims, and hat shapes for clients to pick from, gently guiding them through the creation. It takes approximately six weeks, from the time of fitting to completion of a hat. Straw hats begin at $700 and felt hats at $1,050.

The final product arrives beautifully packaged in a bespoke hatbox tied with a black grosgrain ribbon. The opening is tantamount to unveiling a work of art. “There’s a hat for everybody,” says Harper. For those lucky enough, that hat is from House of Clyde.

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