New Brunswick

Fredericton hat maker provides lighter option for women experiencing hair loss

Trish Hirschkorn is a Fredericton-based hat maker who's coming out with a new line she hopes will be lighter and more comfortable for people going through hair loss

New line of hats are made colourful silk and merino wool

Janice Stephenson wears the hats because she has alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. She says the new line of lightweight hats were comfortable to wear in the summer. (Submitted)

In the few weeks between radiation and chemotherapy treatments, Jen Sullivan went hiking in Norway and visited Amsterdam with her family.

One staple in her carry-on bag is a hat made by her friend, Trish Hirschkorn. It's a hat she wears often, hair loss or no hair loss.

"Trish's [hats] are so unique and so special," Sullivan said. "The fact that she made me some more to wear is such a thoughtful thing. You have it with you so you know those people are with you the whole time, even though they might not be in the treatment with you or with you every day."

Jen Sullivan is spending the time between radiation and chemotherapy hiking in Norway. (Submitted)

Hirschkorn is a Fredericton-based hat maker who's coming out with a new line of colourful silk and merino wool hats. She hopes the hats will be lighter and more comfortable for people going through chemotherapy and have sensitive skin, or for those who've lost their hair for other reasons.

Hirschkorn said the idea came from a request made by Janice Stephenson, a Halifax woman with alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. She wanted something more comfortable to wear in the summer.

"I thought, 'Well, now why don't I just make them thinner, like really thin?'" Hirschkorn told Shift New Brunswick. "I normally felt like I don't want thin spots. To me, that's a bit of a failure … but then I thought, 'Well, why don't I try to achieve failure and put these thin spots throughout?'"

Hair loss can be difficult for anyone. For many, beauty is tied to hair, its thickness and style. Fredericton hat maker Trish Hirschkorn hopes a new line of hats can help. 6:39

So instead of putting the wool on one side and then the silk on the other, she decided to sandwich a swatch of thin wool between silk, so the pattern of the silk will be on the outside, and the soft silk will lay against the wearer's skin.

"I love it," Stephenson said of the hat she inspired. "It was never an option for me to have a wig, ever … I just really didn't like the concept of wearing something that was representing something that wasn't really me."

The thinner hats work better for Sullivan as well. When she's hiking in chilly weather the hat is cool enough to minimize sweating, and when she's in treatment, the reminder of her friend will be comforting.

"I had ovarian cancer so the chemotherapy was pushing me into menopause and I'd have these hot flashes and so I could never tolerate wearing a wig," Sullivan said. "My head was cold and I don't always want to be seen with no hair and now having these new hats is going to be a new option because they're so nice and stylish."

One of the hats made by Fredericton-based hat maker Trish Hirschkorn. (Submitted)

Hirschkorn hopes these hats will be one more option for women who've lost hair.

"Because I know if I were to go through it — and you just never know — I would most certainly want... something funky and fun and uplifting and comfortable and functional and fashionable," Hirschkorn said.

With files from Shift New Brunswick