“All the hats I create always have a story behind them,” says Nadia Valavanis, the designer behind hat label BSVII (pronounced BS-Seven).

“My biggest inspiration is people – my customers and their stories. The hat becomes an extension of who they are.”

From her retail space in Surry Hills, Valavanis takes these stories and handcrafts them into something tangible. Most recently, she was tasked with creating a piece inspired by the rough and rugged world of the outback, a celebration of Volkswagen Amarok’s Walkinshaw Station campaign, the “untamed testing ground” where Amarok V6 W-Series are “reared for the road”.

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The creative process began with a mental sketch of Walkinshaw Station. “I imagined the conditions of the land, the weather, the people,” she says. The result is a wide-brimmed cattleman-style hat made from rabbit fur, with a worn leather band featuring the stencilled W of the Walkinshaw Station logo. She also created an illustration of a rearing thoroughbred splattered by mud, which appears on the hat’s inner lining.

Valavanis’s journey towards to starting BSVII began in her home country of Greece, where studied fashion design. She had always loved creating clothes and accessories by hand. “I’m fascinated by the craftsmanship,” she says.

One day, on a whim, she made herself a hat and shared an image of it on social media. To her surprise, it was an instant hit. “I got a lot of interest from people who asked, ‘Can you make one for me?’” she says. “I realised this was a lost art and became intrigued to learn the craft. I loved the idea of continuing the tradition.”

After creating her prototype, she researched traditional hat-making online and watched endless Youtube tutorials. “There were a few hat-making courses in Australia, but they weren’t the classic ones I wanted,” she says. “I wasn’t interested in fascinators or Melbourne Cup hats – I wanted to learn classic blocking with steam and how to do it all by hand.” She also worked at The Strand Hatters for a time, which exposed her to the industry and what customers seek in a hat.

BSVII quickly earned a cult following thanks to Valavanis’s unusually collaborative approach, inviting her customers to participate in the design process. “We design the hat together,” she says. “It’s not just an accessory… it becomes part of them.”

Until recently, Valavanis produced each BSVII hat by hand in her Surry Hills workshop. However, when Broadsheet speaks to Valavanis, she is in isolation in Melbourne, where she has just moved with her partner Tim Omaji, the Nigerian-born Australian singer-songwriter and dancer also known as Timomatic.

The pair made the move south to allow the “incredibly talented” Omaji to play Toulouse-Lautrec in the Melbourne production of Moulin Rouge! The Musical. “I always wanted to explore Melbourne,” Valavanis says. “I rolled the dice and decided to move with him.”

The designer, who will continue producing her handcrafted hats in Melbourne, says the reward for her effort is seeing the transformation her hats occasion in her customers. “They have this confidence – that’s my goal,” she says. “It’s such a cool feeling” to see her customers wearing BSVII creations in the wild, she adds.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Volkswagen.
Discover the Amarok V6 W-Series, reared for the road at Walkinshaw Station here.