In among the bric-à-brac and cheese stalls of Vienna’s Naschmarkt sits an unexpected boutique. Nomade Moderne is a modern-day milliner whose bespoke hats have a bohemian charm.

Founders Nuriel and Audrey Molcho came from gastronomy and agriculture and fell into hatmaking by chance. “Nuriel wanted to grow out his very curly hair,” Audrey recalls. Conscious of those difficult in-between stages, a friend recommended a hat. “He searched in despair, not finding what he wanted, and nothing at a reasonable price. So he decided to learn how to make one himself,” she continues. “Much steam, felt, fire and little bits of thread scattered around our living room later, he had made his first hat: slightly wrong, slightly crooked, but he said, ‘I like it – it’s vagabond’, and wore it with pride, cashing in endless compliments from friends, and even passers-by on the street.”

A flat-brimmed fedora with ethnic mud-cloth fabric from the Ivory Coast
A flat-brimmed fedora with ethnic mud-cloth fabric from the Ivory Coast © Nuriel Molcho
Nuriel Molcho – who made his first hat while trying to grow out his hair – shaping a hat
Nuriel Molcho – who made his first hat while trying to grow out his hair – shaping a hat

With the help of the numerous seamstresses that are a fixture in the Austrian capital and the guidance of a local rabbi and milliner, Nuriel’s DIY felt-fedora hobby turned into a business within six months. In 2017, the couple opened a shop next to the restaurant run by Nuriel’s family – a glass-fronted store filled with vintage material, sewing machines and odd flea-market finds. “It’s klein aber fein, as we would say in German. Small but wonderful,” says Audrey.

Raw felt fedoras in the Vienna shop
Raw felt fedoras in the Vienna shop © Nuriel Molcho

The duo are passionate about continuing traditional local millinery techniques, cultivated in celebrated shops such as Mühlbauer and Zapf around the beginning of the 20th century. But they have put their own twist on the aesthetic. Nomade Moderne hats use fabrics and materials found on the couple’s travels, and there is an edginess to their style. A coral-red felt fedora has Jackson Pollock-style splatters of rainbow-coloured paint, a cream wide-brimmed hat features a handmade sea-blue velvet and vintage-silk band, and a deep black style, created in collaboration with a Tulum-based brand, is trimmed with black fringing.

Burning a felt fedora to finish it
Burning a felt fedora to finish it © Nuriel Molcho
Audrey Molcho steaming a hat
Audrey Molcho steaming a hat © Nuriel Molcho

Nuriel and Audrey see commissions (from €500) as collaborative efforts with each of their clients. “We don’t do collections every year – there’s nothing off the rack,” Audrey says. Customers are measured and taken through options for colour, shape, ribbons, details, feathers, pins and patinas. Four to six weeks later, they receive their hat.

“We love meeting our customers at the atelier but also take orders via email or video call,” says Audrey. High-profile clients include Austrian footballer David Alaba, German popstar Johannes Strate, rising star conductor Lorenzo Viotti and Brazilian footballer Neymar, who purchased three hats for himself and a matching one for his son.

“Each hat has its own story,” says Audrey. “It will continue its nomadic life with its new owner when it leaves the shop.”

Get alerts on Shopping and gifts when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section