Wood & Panel

SOM designs Optimum Hat Company

 Friday, April 27, 2018

som 2Since its founding more than 25 years ago, Optimo Hat Company has developed a cult following as a leading maker of handcrafted hats for diverse and global clientele. Optimo’s new headquarters consolidates its design, operations, and production spaces inside a 100-year-old decommissioned firehouse located in Beverly, a historic neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. To create a space that reflects Optimo’s ethos of craftsmanship, authenticity, and timeless luxury, the company engaged SOM, a firm that shares the same values. The design of the new headquarters befits a hat maker known for its rigorous attention to detail.


Envisioned as a contemporary workshop with an industrial aesthetic, the design draws from a palette of refined and understated materials, including blackened steel, walnut, and cork.


The space is as customized as the hats themselves: elegant steel casings frame task and ambient lighting above workstations; custom floor-to-ceiling shelving houses unique hat forms and molds; tailor-made rolling racks organize and mobilize hats for effortless access on the factory floor; modern and antique machinery were organized and finished uniformly in matte black; and restored glazed-brick walls wrap the daylit double-height space. Using traditional techniques from the beginning of the 20th century, each Optimo hat is formed and finished with materials like straw, fine furs, and rare ribbons to provide the superior product that defines the brand.


somSOM worked with Optimo to create an efficient and collaborative workflow for the facility. The new headquarters doubles Optimo’s production capacity and accommodates future expansion. “Our intention was to create an exceptional hat factory to produce an exceptional product,” says Optimo owner Graham Thompson. “Collaborating with SOM was key in re-imagining this space—we both approach design with integrity and purpose.” Graham added further.


As the last custom men’s hat maker in Chicago, Optimo continues a tradition that defines the “City of Broad Shoulders.” The company supports Beverly’s economic and social vitality by employing local residents and fostering a creative community. Its new headquarters is the smallest factory ever designed by SOM. “We are proud to apply a high level of thoughtfulness and design rigor to this small project, connecting to a rich history of craftsmanship in South Chicago,” says Brian Lee, Design Partner at SOM. “This is a great story for the city.”


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