Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Emme hats

Emme ‘bebe’ bonnet with removable Breton brim, c. 1966

Ethel Price started in the millinery business in the mid 1920s, training for five years at Bruck-Weiss, a New York millinery firm. Sometime in the  1930s Emme went into business with two women partners whose first names were Mildred and Evie – they put their initials together and came up with the company’s name “Emme Hats”. Founded as a custom order salon, the company hired 22 year old Cuban-born Adolfo Sardinas as their leading designer in 1952.

The ‘Bebe’ bonnet without the brim, by Emme, c. 1966

By 1961 Emme hats had grown to include a line of wholesale hats for department stores as well as a budget line ‘Emme Boutique’ alongside their high-end custom orders. Adolfo and Ethel parted ways in early 1962 over design credit on the Emme label. Adolfo opened his own millinery the next year and within a few years had transformed his business into dressmaking, become a well known New York designer of Chanel style tweed suits and glamorous evening gowns. Before retiring in 1993, one of Adolfo’s most loyal customers had been Nancy Reagan.

After Adolfo left Emme in 1962 Ethel Price hired Anello, an Italian milliner, as head designer. Emme remained a popular millinery but hat sales were plummeting in the 1960s. In 1970 Ethel Price retired from the business and closed Emme hats. Ethel Price died in 1987 at the age of 85.

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