fumil |  not so mad hatters

fumil | not so mad hatters

They are in love, but they are also the two hatters behind the Fumile brand. Portrait of Mélodie Lavergne and Alex Surprenant, who design and manufacture the hats you have seen on the heads of Tire le coyote, Win Butler, Mariana Mazza or the Canadian players.

Posted yesterday at 11:00 am

Emily Costa

Emily Costa

It’s a perfect day to drive with the windows down, and Highway 213 from Dunham to Frelighsburg looks even more bucolic than last time.

The luminous building occupied by the Fumile hat shop-boutique, shared with the Passe-Montagne refreshment bar, is located on the main street of Freli, just opposite the small Beat & Betterave show hall.

Arriving at the workshop-boutique, our gaze is immediately drawn to the 10 rows of hats that rise in height.

  • fumile hats


    fumile hats

  • fumile hats


    fumile hats

  • fumile hats


    fumile hats


Mélodie Lavergne and Alex Surprenant have already settled in Montreal, on Atateken Street, practically opposite the Agrikol restaurant. They even lived illegally in his workshop for three years.

Win Butler, lead singer of Arcade Fire and former co-owner of Agrikol, also wore Fumile hats. “ What Good Guy says Mélodie Lavergne.

The same could be said of the latter and her companion, Alex Surprenant.

The couple met seven years ago at a bar through mutual friends. Mélodie had studied fashion and was running her Sass Créations business while Alex was going through a dark period. An injury had forced him to abandon his career as a professional soccer player, especially for the Impact.

He was looking for me and wanted to create.

amazing alex

When Alex, who already loved wearing hats, saw a YouTube video of avant-garde star milliner Nick Fouquet, it was a revelation: “It totally turned me on,” he says.

“We saw that there was room for innovation in this traditional and conservative profession,” adds Mélodie.

However, unlike her sweet, Alex had never touched a sewing machine.

A know-how that is lost

Alex and Mélodie turned to the milliner and milliner Lucie Grégoire. “She is very important in our career,” says Alex. She occupied the stronghold of the millinery in Quebec for 40 years. »

What is difficult in millinery is investing in all the equipment at the beginning, including the moulds. Lucie allowed us to experiment.

melody lavergne

For the fur hats, Alex and Mélodie also enlisted the help of Bernard Zarwanitzer. The latter simply allowed them to watch him work in his studio before his retirement. It was a great opportunity for the couple to have two mentors with knowledge that cannot be learned in school.


The manufacture of a hat is carried out in several stages.

“They have an experience that is being lost,” underlines Mélodie. At the manufacturing level, the art of the hat has disappeared. »

Hat making is still a craft. “Unlike clothes, there is no machine that makes a beautiful hat from A to Z,” explains Alex. There are many steps at hand. »

According to Mélodie, this is probably why the hat is no longer worn as an everyday accessory. “Our challenge is to get him back to morale. »

Since April 2018, Fumile has been selling ready-to-wear and custom-made hats. You don’t buy a hat like you buy a garment. There is a financial and emotional investment. People go through all kinds of emotions when choosing the model, the material, the style of the crown, the color, the decorations…

The hat is very identifying. It is an extension of oneself.

melody lavergne

“Our strength is guiding people. It is a collaboration”, explains Mélodie.


Customers have developed a “healthy” addiction to Fumile’s hats, Alex says with a smile.

On Fumile’s hats, we find the acronym WAHS, for “We all have scars.”

We all have our wounds and our stories and we should not be afraid to talk about them.

amazing alex

A hat has lived and you have to be proud to wear it, he argues. Especially when it is unique and signed Fumile.

It must be said that the experience of choosing a creation or making it to measure is really pleasant since Fumile is installed in Frelighsburg.

Just before the pandemic, Alex and Mélodie had attended the major MAGIC fashion show in Las Vegas to meet international buyers.


The team dates from another era.

Closing the borders has completely changed their strategy. “We decided to go extralocal,” says Alex.

He and Mélodie started dreaming of settling in the Eastern Townships and came across this space in Frelighsburg, previously occupied by La Cueillette restaurant. “It was the old hotel-bar in Freli that opened its doors in 1920 during prohibition,” says Mélodie.

The inauguration took place on May 15, 2021 and today the bride and groom are delighted. Time stands still when you go to choose a hat or discuss getting one made to measure at Fumile. Especially since you can have a coffee or a glass of natural wine. And on the mezzanine, if you are lucky enough to visit the workshop, you will catch the artisanal side of hat making.

Alex shows us how he brushes and cuts felt, while Mélodie shapes straw with steam from an oven.

“We still have a lot of renovation projects. It is a long-term project,” says Mélodie.

Meanwhile, she and Alex will have to keep up with the high demand for their hats. Not so crazy, these hatters…

#fumil #mad #hatters

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