Maker: The DNA of HardKor Hats

Kori Stanton has had a lifelong love affair … with hats. As a child in Paonia, a youth in Grand Junction, a young adult in Denver, an adult in Los Angeles, and now full circle back in Grand Junction, hats have always been Stanton’s signature. With the launch of HardKor Hats two years ago, this Western Slope native is fulfilling her dream and a recently discovered family tradition.

Stanton was first inspired by her fashionable, hat-donning paternal grandmother. Her own creative expression began with photography training at age 11. Before she was 21, Stanton was working at a film and photography studio in Los Angeles. For over ten years, her job as a fashion photographer took her on frequent trips to New York City and around the world. Wherever Stanton went, her hats went too. 


“A hat completes me. It’s part of who I am,” says Stanton. “I realized I was only getting recognized when I was wearing a hat. I decided if people are identifying me with my hats, maybe I should start a hat line.”

Around the same time, Stanton made the connection that her maternal grandmother and an aunt had both been milliners. Realizing her hat passion may be genetic as well as personal, she set a plan in motion. Stanton researched voraciously, designed her original classic hat, and traveled to New York where a hat factory produced her first piece. Photo shoots followed, and HardKor Hats was created in August 2015.

Not one to do things in a traditional manner, Stanton had yet to learn the art of hat making. Still, her artistic and hands-on nature soon led her to research and connect with experienced mentors. Stanton attended intense one-on-one workshops with well-known milliners Jasmin Zorlu in New York and Tracy Chaplin in southern France. Chaplin is originally from London and trained under Rose Cory, milliner to English royalty including the Queen Mother.

Stanton now combines her training and talent in the hatmaking process, which she finds extremely meditative. Each one-of-a-kind piece is handmade in a process that can take weeks. She handpicks the majority of her high-quality materials in New York and is committed to buying USA-made products whenever possible. Her hats are primarily made of suede fur felt, wool felt, panama straw and sinamay, a natural fiber known for its strength. 

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HardKor hats come in five styles customized with bands in leather or ribbon, and with accents such as stones. The hats have been seen on celebrities as well as everyday aficionados who want a finely made piece that will last a lifetime and be passed on to future generations. Stanton’s goal is for her hats to be sold and worn worldwide. They are currently available through her website. 

Today, Stanton sees hatmaking not only as a dream come true, but also as her destiny. Just before launching HardKor Hats, Stanton learned her family tradition of hatmaking went even deeper than she realized: Her great-grandfather had been a milliner and owner of The New Orleans Central Hat Company. “Hats are beyond a passion, they are imbedded in my DNA,” she says. 

Stanton believes her story is what makes her hats unique. “My hats speak to people and resonate with them. They’re a statement piece.” She hopes this story, and the remarkable hats it has produced, will inspire other creators of all ages to see their own potential and follow their dreams.