Eric Javits, Ace Milliner, Pulls Big-Time Glamour Out of His Hats

updated 04/04/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/04/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

If you're looking for an Easter bonnet this year, you'll not only be seasonal but in style. Hats are back, and women across America are donning perky boaters, wide-brimmed bonnets with roses, and toques trimmed in lace. Millinery, it seems, is no longer just for Di and Fergie and the set that never gave up on white gloves.

Luckily for Eric Javits, 32, a New York milliner since 1978, the most dashing and attention getting of those hats are his. His company, Eric Javits Inc., shipped 14,000 of his creations to such stores as Neiman-Marcus this spring, and his sales are up 20 percent. That's thanks to customers like Madonna, Bette Midler and Debra Winger, as well as to ordinary mortals who shall, as always, go nameless. "There is," says Javits, "a return to glamour."

The son of a Manhattan lawyer, also Eric Javits (nephew of the late U.S. Sen. Jacob Javits), and his ex-wife, Stephanie, an interior designer, Eric studied sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design. After graduation—"as a lark," he says—he and classmate Elliot Whittal began turning out offbeat sculptural headwear made from such materials as liquid plastic and house paint. To their surprise, they received $75,000 in orders the first year.

Javits sold his interest in their company to Whittal in 1985 and set up his own shop, where paint and plastic have long since given way to finer stuff. "I revel in the luxury of brocades, velvets, taffetas," says Javits, whose hats are made by a staff of 50 craftsmen in Manhattan's garment district. His cheapest offering, a black-banded straw sun hat, goes for $35; his most expensive, a veiled and rose-bedecked "Miss Scarlet" number, for $375. Javits says shoppers shouldn't feel guilty about lavishing that much on an item of fashion. "Hats are a gift for yourself," he says, "but also for those around you."

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