For New Rochelle’s Debbie Lorenzo, hat-making was never in her life plans. Years ago, after going through a divorce and raising three children, Lorenzo went back to school and received her master’s degree in social work. She loved helping people but wasn’t in love with sitting at a desk every day. “It wasn’t creative,” she says. After her mother died, Lorenzo began going through her things and came across an old passport picture of her great-grandmother, Frances Grey, a seamstress from Jamaica. Admiring the picture and its signature, she set it aside. “I just put it on my vision board and had no idea that I would be the one to use it,” she says. The name along with the signature would go on to become her company’s brand and logo.
In September of 2016, she enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology’s millinery course. “Within my third class I was like, I found my thing!” She started making hats at home on her stovetop and oven. Lorenzo’s hard work would pay off when a friend asked if she was interested in selling her hats at Bloomingdale’s. She held the inaugural Frances Grey trunk show, and the pieces she worked so hard to create began falling into place. “It was God’s divine timing. I don’t believe it’s luck. I believe that things happen when they’re supposed to… when you’re ready for them,” she says.
Frances Grey hats have adorned some of the biggest names in the fashion and music industries. Naomi Campbell, Iman, Julia Stiles, and even Beyoncé, who wore an MCM/Misa Hylton cap designed by Lorenzo for her music video Apes**t.
Lorenzo, who is of Jamaican descent, credits her Caribbean heritage with giving her designs a vibrant flare. She also notes there’s been an upward trend in hat wearing. “People are now wearing hats for whenever. It’s not specific for a wedding or funeral or even for the Kentucky Derby.” Her hats can be found at Nordstrom and her site, with prices ranging from $230 to $600. Sometimes when people buy her hats, they’ll ask, “Where or when should I wear my hat?” Lorenzo’s reply: “Wear it everywhere. Don’t save anything. Just wear it!”
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