Hats on the Avenue

Photo by Bill Wine.

Photo by Bill Wine.

By Graham Pilotte

As spring approaches, it’s time for new fashion trends to emerge. Each year brings a splash of new styles, especially those all-important Derby hats.  So each year, you could scour the stores for new trends — or you could enjoy dinner and live music with your friends as you watch a fashion show from your table.

If the latter option sounds far better to you, you’re not alone – it’s why Hats on the Avenue, a fashion show at Varanese, is now a Louisville must-see. “We invite local boutiques to come and showcase hats in a table-side fashion show,” explains Randy Blevins, president of Think Tank Lou who has helped planned and produce the event for years. “It’s a really fun time to get into the Derby spirit.”

“It started off with the idea of doing something for Derby,” says John Varanese. “We have a lot of great neighbors with small boutiques around our Frankfort Avenue location, so we decided to do our own fashion show built around Derby hats. Models kind of go in between the tables; they can stop and visit. People have a good time, and it’s great exposure for the local boutiques. Having an event with dinner brings another level to dining out.”

Margaret Schneider of Margaret’s Consignment is delighted at the chance to showcase some of her hats. “It’s really exciting,” she says. “I like to pick out the hats that are really different – colorful, the big ones. We do fascinators too. And we work with the girls to coordinate with what they’re wearing.”

She knows the classic looks for ladies but also keeps her eye on upcoming styles. “Men’s hats are a growing trend – we’ll probably have a male model in the show this year,” Schneider predicts. She expects to bring around 20 hats to her show.

“To me, it’s all about supporting local businesses and local people,” explains Varanese. “It feels good to support your peers and your neighbors.” He’s excited for this year’s lineup, which includes fashion from Mysterious Rack, Liv Boutique and Lulubelles, as well as Margaret’s Consignment. The atmosphere too is perfect for a night out. “We have live music, background jazz,” Varanese says, “and half-price bottles of wine. It’s always a great experience.” It’s evident that the community here is tremendously collaborative, with great Frankfort Avenue businesses coming together in a supportive environment.

This will be the ninth year for Hats on the Avenue, which means that Varanese has years of these engaging memories. “One time, a woman from one of the local shops brought her horse in front of the restaurant,” he says with a smile. “We had a photo opportunity out in front with the hat and the horse. It was a fun idea for Derby.”

So if you’re looking to support local businesses while finding the perfect hat, you may want to call for a reservation at Varanese on an upcoming Wednesday night in April. Hats on the Avenue is sure to impress. “I just love it,” Schneider says. “I’ve been here on the Avenue for 26 years and have worked really hard in the area.” She’s ready to welcome new friends and to share her neighborhood’s treasures. “The joy is having people from anywhere that love it and enjoy it.” VT