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By Charles Lam
The hot women's hat this summer is the army hat in camouflage: a smallish, military-inspired cloth offering not unlike an engineer's cap. And the woman who makes it in one of its more popular iterations is Jodi Benavidez, a former fashion industry journalist who started her own cap company, Broke Down, in January. Thus far, Broke Down is based in Benavidez's Costa Mesa garage. Of course, some of our biggest sportswear concerns began in garages—RVCA and Paul Frank, for two. And Broke Down seems to be growing rather quickly; it's already landed more than a dozen accounts, including the crucial Diane's Swimwear vote.
"Usually a trend peaks rather quickly, and dies after that, but I do see the style of the hat going forwards," says Melanie Michaud, marketing manager for Diane's, which will ramp up its Orange County profile this month when it opens spin-off store Bikini in Newport Beach. Camouflage, Michaud says, may come and go—though, for the past five years or so, it's been on the march—but "she has two great looks."
They are the camo hat—emblazoned with the phrase "Diamonds and Guns" on the crown, in pink, with Swarovski crystals parading above the bill—and any of Broke Down's other examples. These come in solid, sober hues and in railroad stripes, and are pre-worn, with antique-y gold buttons instead of crystals.
"It incorporates the military look but gives it more of a fashion sense and less of a tomboy look—gives it more of a girly feel," Michaud says.
Whatever it does was strong enough to make a customer of Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant's wife, who purchased one recently at Diane's in Laguna Beach—news that was immediately recorded at the store and provided Benavidez with a bit of a coup.
"You definitely need a hat for summer," says Benavidez, who watched military-inspired colors stay trendy for years before making her move. "Hats are perfect at the beach. You can throw them on over a miniskirt or shirts, or put them on with sweatpants—anything."
THE ARMY CAP, $48-$55, AT DIANE'S SWIMWEAR, THE CLOSET, PINK LAUNDRY AND AREA STORES.