Orlando Palacios is a heralded and creative artist based in New York City.

Orlando has spent the past 20 years designing and manufacturing the finest handcrafted hats for fashion designers, celebrities, Broadway shows and stylish people from around the world. As the owner and head designer of the venerable New York haberdashery, Worth and Worth, he has grown to be the go-to lid-crafter for musicians ranging from Keith Richards to Elvis Costello and Beyoncé.

He often collaborates with fashion designers such as John Varvatos, Thom Browne, Robert Geller and Diane Von Furstenberg for their runway presentations. His passion for the craft enables him to keep the art of hat-making alive by using the same centuries-old techniques while the innovation and style of his designs remains unchallenged.


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" It was like going back into time: there was little fuel so people were traveling by oxen and horses... "

Orlando was born in Los Angeles. His family is originally from the village of Santa Teresa in Nicaragua. After the revolution, Orlando returned back to Nicaragua for a visit.



" Growing up a punk teen in the 80's in LA was fresh, fast and rebellious... We would head to the Salvation Army... "

He grew up during the punk era in the 80’s when he cultivated his first taste of fashion. Trawling through the dollar bins of vintage thrift shops, this was Orlando’s first step.

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" I had put an ad in the hat trade paper advertising with my new profession: "Hat block maker". I got a few hits locally and started on my path "

In 1990, Orlando started his own company by carving wooden hat forms for the hat industries, all across Europe and South America. While carving abroad, he discovered his passion for the art of hat-making.

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" Business had really started to pick up and I had to get a larger space. Joe The super and I had been having coffee's together in the mornings... "

3 years later, he decided to leave California to start his career as an artist and hat-maker in New York City. He moved into his loft in Hell’s kitchen, created his own space and from there, carved out a new life & home.

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" I had received a phone call from Harry Rosenholtz, the owner of Worth & Worth at the time... We met at my old loft in hell's kitchen. "

After meeting and working with the owners of Worth & Worth for several years, Orlando purchased the company in 1999 and became the owner and head-designer of the renowned New York haberdashery.

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Orlando engineered the revitalization of Worth & Worth by introducing the art of hat-making to the business. He then decided to move the showroom and his atelier, to its present and historic 57th street location. By operating out of a small showroom and advertising strictly through word-of-mouth, he re-established the brand and maintained the integrity of Worth & Worth..

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" When Paul arrived we greeted and proceeded down the hall way to the atelier we call “the kitchen”. I had heard Paul was working on a new album. So, I asked Paul... "

Orlando’s hats have been donned by some of the most notable people in our culture today including Keith Richards, Sir Paul Simon and David Mamet, to name of few. He continues his endeavor to make quality a main component of his styles and designs. Rolling Stone Magazine named Worth & Worth “The Hot Rock & Roll Haberdasher”.

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Heads at Fifteen Feet

It was the day after Christmas, and I had given everyone the day off. I was alone at the showroom. It was a quiet day and I was straightening up. I got a ring from downstairs that somebody was on their way up. I answered the door and a nice gentleman in his thirties came in.

He was enthusiastic about hats, so I indulged him with all my knowledge. He was there for quite a bit, asking me questions about how the hats are made, where I got the raw materials, how I got involved, everything from soup to nuts. While we were talking, I got another ring from downstairs that another client was coming up to look at hats. The new client comes in and starts looking around and I'm still with the first gentleman, fitting him for a hat. The second man was at the other end of the shop, some 15-20 feet away and starts trying hats on. I noticed from the corner of my eye that he's trying on hats much too large for him. 

So I spoke up from across the room to tell him he was a 7 3/8". The first man with a bewildered look asks how did I know that second man's hat size?

I explained that I started my craft by carving hat molds and I understand dimensions quite well. Later that week I received a phone call from the New York Times saying they want to send a photographer to take photos of me and my shop for an article. I thought, Wow...Great... I was expecting a reporter to come along but when the photographer showed up he was alone. When I asked the photographer where the reporter was, he responded the interview had already taken place. I was like, 'huh?'

A few weeks had past and one morning, I was reading the Times, and there it was the article about our shop in the Style section. It was a detailed article about our hats and there was a quote about me and the guy whose hat size I had determined from across the room. 
From that day forward clients would and still test my ability to decipher a hat size by merely looking at
their heads. I'm batting about. 900.

A Brother from Another Mother

had received a phone call from Harry Rosenholtz, the owner of Worth & Worth at the time. He called to inquire about some new designs for his hat company. We met at my old loft in hell's kitchen. At the time I was influenced by the surrealists and had fabricated hatstands that resembled giant bent nails, and I had them coming out of the walls and the floor. The room was painted in stark white and we had stenciled large black and red ants forming a series of trails through the room.

Harry seemed curious and we sat down to get to know each other. Things between us clicked and we began working together. We had a very good first season and found we had a lot in common. So, Harry invited me over to have dinner with him and his family. He had a wall of vinyl and played some groovy Brazilian jazz. I met his wife Heidi and his two sons, Sam and Josh.

Over dinner Heidi politely asked me about my background and when she heard of my Nicaraguan roots she suggested I accompany Harry and his VP Mark Baum on their first buying trip to Ecuador.

Harry and Mark were going to Ecuador to search of the legendary Montecristi Panama hat weavers. A few days later I was on my way with the boys to Ecuador. We arrived in Guayaquil. It was raining; we picked up our rental car, a map and exchange money. I drove. Mark and Harry had done some preliminary research on the villages where the hats were woven.

Our first stop was Jipijapa, a dusty, quiet town we would have missed if we blinked or sneezed. We stopped at a natural juice stand and inquired about the hats. The shopkeeper explained to us the hats hadn't been woven there since the 1960s. So we proceeded on our quest, about an hour or more on a two-lane highway until we saw a dilapidated road sign indicating the town of Montecristi a few kilometers ahead. 

Harry and Mark were as anxious as young school girls. We pulled into this bustling town with street vendors, cyclists, open street kitchens -- and hats for sale everywhere. It was an election year
and all over the town, the candidates had painted large lettering with their names and party affiliations. When we stopped it was obvious we were here for hats, and we were swarmed like bees to honey.

Harry, knowing the quality of the hats he wanted, knew these weren't the ones he had been seeking. But we knew that they had to be in this town, maybe on a back street somewhere.

So we drove up the hill towards the church, and along the way I noticed the signage for a certain candidate, Rafael Ruiz Palacios, which happened to be my grandfather's name.

So when we stopped at the hat shop to inquire about the weavers, I introduced myself as Orlando Palacios. The shopkeeper asked if I was any relation to Rafael Ruiz Palacios. I answered, "yes, he is my grandfather”.  And it was as if I held the golden key to the pearly gates of heaven. 

The shopkeeper closed his shop and personally walked us over to the main commissioner. "Don Rosendo Delgado." We were introduced and I explained that my grandfather's name was indeed "Rafael Ruiz Palacios," but he lived in Nicaragua and this was a small misunderstanding. He laughed and invited us in. We walked into a large salon and there were weavers around the perimeter finishing hats. Harry knew we had the mother load and we began our long and prosperous friendship with Don Rosendo.

Getting Ready for Paul

It was early spring and Vaughn had called to let me know Paul Simon was on his way. When Paul arrived we greeted and proceeded down the hallway to the atelier we call “the kitchen”.

I had heard Paul was working on a new album. So, I asked Paul how it was going with the new album. He stopped dead in his stride and with a gleam in his eyes, like a child wanting to show off his new bike, he answered: "you wanna hear it." I, of course, replied YES and he went down to the car and pulled the tracks.

When he came back up he handed me the CD and I slipped it into our player. He requested we turn it up. The first track was "getting ready for Christmas day" it starts with this rocking beat ...

So Paul starts rocking his torso back and forth to the beat. I give him some space and moved over to the steaming table to block his hat.

There's this dub he mixed in with a Southern Baptist, the Reverend Gates, it's a sermon from the '40s. The Reverend Gates has this deep bellowing voice and as it is queued in, Paul starts dropping in some beats. It was outta mind man.

So there we are, Me, Paul, Cathy, Brandon, and Rute all in the kitchen, all rocking to the beats, steam pumping, felt 's bouncing, the tracker tacking. All in unison. We played all the tracks, with all of us movin' and groovin'. Paul seemed to enjoy and appreciate it so much that when it was all done he said "let's play it again"... Paul spent a good hour in the kitchen, and when he finally left, we shook our heads in amazement and laughed.

Hat Blocker to Go

I had put an ad in the hat trade paper advertising with my new profession:  "Hat block maker".

I got a few hits locally and started on my path. Then I got this phone call from a hat company in Colombia. They needed new blocks made; they wanted to revamp their look. So after a series of conversations, I suggested that instead of going back and forth on the new designs, and since my tools were all portable, why didn't they fly me to Bogota and I could do all the work on their premises? They went for it. 

I packed my grinder some wood rasps and my contour gauge. I was on my way. It was the early 90's and Columbia was going through some serious political turmoil. 

The Paramilitaries were aggressive, the militia was running rampant. A perfect spot for an adventurous block maker. 
I landed in the evening, and their driver picked me up. The city of Bogota was definitely a military zone. There were checkpoints every mile and the streets were abandoned. We arrived at the InterContinental hotel in downtown Bogota. The driver checked me in and suggested I stay at the hotel and have my drinks and food in house. I did. 

The next day the owner of the factory came to my hotel to discuss the new molds. We went out for breakfast and it was like we were political figures. We were accompanied with these two large, suited bodyguards. I thought this was very strange. “What’s up with the goons?” I asked him. He replied because he was an affluent owner of a large company, he was a target for kidnappings.

After our breakfast, he took me back to the hotel and I sketched new shapes for a couple of hours. About early evening I was bored so I decided to walk in the town and check it out. Well, as I was walking out the door, the porter asked me where I was going. I responded: “into town”.  He advised me to take a “hotel chaperone.” I nixed the idea and headed in.

There was a bus stop in front of the hotel, so I jumped on and took it wherever it was headed. I felt like I was an alien. Everyone stared at me. So I got into town, found the marketplace and had a bite to eat. It was late afternoon by then and people were scurrying around anxiously. There was a sense of fear and desperation. I asked the girl who had served me: “what’s with the tension in the air?” She responded there is a curfew and there had been bombings the last few days. So I grabbed a beer and explored. The evening was setting fast and the darker it got, the fewer the people I saw. Until at one point it was as if I had the city to myself. 

Soon a group of military stopped me and asked me for my papers, but I hadn’t brought them. I told them that I was staying at the "Inter" and that they could verify my accommodations.

They started searching my bag, found my Walkman and asked what it was. I had been listening to some Talking Heads “Burning Down the House” -- the young captain must have known the tune and broke a smile, he muttered on the “road to nowhere" and we connected. He asked me to join him in the truck and we talked music all the way back to hotel.

He suggested watching the curfew, and if I ran into trouble mention his name: “Captain Javier Solis, like the singer. "


Business had really started to pick up and I had to get a larger space. Joe, the super and I had been having coffee together in the mornings for quite a while and would shot the shit. 
I had told him of my predicament and asked him if he had any open spaces in our building, it so happens that some business had moved out of the 13th floor.  
After our coffee, Joe took me up to the space to take a look. It was huge, 3000 sqft. It was raw, it was wide open and sunny. So I "decorated the mahogany" as they say and Joe put in a good word with the owner Mitch. Mitch was a funny guy he had this deep voice that sounded like an old door opening and he had a large cigar in his mouth and his desk was full of lil katchkas. A real character.

We negotiated a real sweet lease and I got 1 month free rent so I started to build immediately. 
1st I built the shop then the bathroom.

Then I had to hide my sleeping quarters, being it was a commercial space and by law I wasn't suppose to live there. So I built this corner spot in a kind of triangular room just big enough to throw a mattress in and that’s it.

To camouflage it, I created this juxtaposition of cut birch, chards of glass and mylar. Inside I had built a tree house out of birch, I slept on the top and had my closet on the bottom. It was delightfully cozy. I had 23 windows and southwest exposure I felt like Hells kitchen's Prince up on the 13th floor. I was the only one at the time who lived in the building, all the other spaces were businesses... 

About a year later these two cats, they were twins from Israel, moved into the floor below me. 
I kept very irregular hours and sometimes I'd start carving my blocks late at night and worked till the early mornings. I had a full shop handsaws, table saw, drill press, grinders you name it I had it.

So apparently the twins below me, didn't keep the same hours and every once in a while in retaliation, they would face there large speakers towards the ceiling and try to blast me out. This only encouraged me and I would find creative ways to create a symphony of noise sometimes,

out marbles, nails, chunks of wood and anything that created an echoing sound. This went on for months.

Then one winter day, while I was traveling to California, my pet Iguana “Aboude” got out of her cage and landed on the twins setback. Well unknowingly while one of the twins, Erez, was cleaning the kitty litter. He found Aboude and she was frozen stiff. He was unaware where it came from or who's it was.

He had asked around to see if anyone knew to whom the iguana belonged to.  Joe the Super told him it was mine. He tried to revive her. He had tried to warm up the body using several methods and had given up. His cats though didn't and they laid on the iguana until she came out of her comatose state. A few days later, I returned and was gathering my messages from my answering machine and I heard a message that Erez and Alon, the twins, had my iguana and that it was ok. So I immediately went downstairs, heard the story and we became great friends ever since.

First Taste of Fashion

Growing up a punk teen in the '80s in LA was fresh, fast and rebellious. This was my first taste of fashion. We would head to the Salvation Army first, to go through the dollar bins to pick out any non-patterned sweater or shirt, then go through the coat racks get anything in a cotton canvas or leather if we were lucky. Also preferred were the old army jackets. Then we'd have a tagging party at one of our homes. Usually at Steve's (AKA "RED”) in his basement.

It was Sharpie city down there -- the basement would be filled with the smell of ink and the screechy sound of the felt tip over our new wears which we called our "skins". In the background, we'd play the latest Cali punk:  Agent orange, DOA, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, to name a few.  

It was collaboration at its newest ... we all worked on each other’s wears ... our inspirations were Raymond Pettibon to Ronald Reagan ... When done we'd rock our new skins and head to the "Bowl" -- that was our hang out.

We didn't do much, just hang. Our Skins were our trademark. It represented who we were what we thought and what we listen to.

Four Hens for a Bicycle

We returned back to Nicaragua after the revolution. It was like going back into time: there was little fuel so people were traveling by oxen and horses. The population was 90% women and 10% men; over 60 years, a generation had been wiped out. Men from the ages of 11-50 years old had left or been sent to the battlefront. The exchange rate was absurd. 

One would exchange 100 US dollars and receive a bag full of Cordobas. We returned to my hometown of Santa Teresa. I remember we had a horse-- a white one with few brown spots. I had named him “Trigger” but because of our Nicaraguan accent, it sounded like “Trigo” which means wheat. So the name stuck.
My father and I arrived at my aunt’s house. After hours greeting the family, my cousin Monchi and I decided to walk up the hills to the farm and get Trigo. So we did, and he was standing underneath a large mango tree out of the sun. I called him, using the clicking sound I would make with my teeth. Trigo remembered and came over. I stroked his long nose, fed him some treats and then mounted him. We rode into town: Monchi on his horse and I on Trigo. It had been 15 years since we rode together, and Trigo had aged, but that day, I think because of the treats and his joy to see me, he rode like a stallion. He still had stride so as we came into Santa Teresa we gave them a show.

As we passed my grandfathers Pharmacy and turned at the church a young kid on his bike ran into Trigo and I. This startled Trigo and he ran a bit before I could get the reigns. When I turned back, the kid was gone so I figured all was ok. Trigo and I rode the rest of the afternoon. When we returned back to my aunt's house my whole family – aunt, uncle, first and second cousins, were all outside standing waiting for me. Rumors had spread like wildfire as they do in these small towns that the Gringo with the hat had been riding his horse wildly through the streets and had nearly killed a boy and trampled his bicycle.

The matriarch of the family, my Tia Chio, asked me what happened. So I proceeded to tell her the day’s earlier events. There was a knock at the door -- it was the mother of the child and her posse inquiring about retribution for the damaged bike and her frightened child.

As I tried to explain my version of the event and getting nowhere, my father -- who is short on Patience and words -- said in a deep voice, “how will a few of our finest hens do in retribution?”
She took the deal. And the image which sticks in my mind is that of a small round women walking down a dirt road with four chickens hanging upside down two on each hand.

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