January 1871, Europe is once again bloodless following the Franco-Prussian war. Napoleon is routed, times are hard. Young Justin Herman decides to force his future and leave his family to try his luck. This little phrase that his grandfather repeated to him many times goes through his mind:
"It is almost always by a stroke of madness that you build a destiny".
It is decided, direction Paris and then take what will become a few years later the legendary Orient-Express line. Barely installed in a cabin car that will take him to Vienna, Justin Herman meets a friendly businessman who tells him to sell hats. Unfortunately, according to his theory, the railway will mark the end of its trade, people will no longer need to cover their heads when moving.
On the contrary, Justin sees it as a formidable vector of expansion for this kind of product, the world will shrink thanks to this new means of locomotion, new markets will therefore be within reach, he told him. Alas, the old man no longer believes it but without knowing it, he has just transmitted the sacred fire to Justin Herman.
It's decided, Justin will be a hatter. Arrived in Vienna, he was tempted to return immediately to Belgium in order to embark on this new profession. However, he told himself that he could use his trip to see, learn and understand the different facets of this profession in this disparate Europe.
It was not until three years later that Justin returned home to his small village in the Ardennes. He will have taken advantage of these 3 years, not to tour Europe, but around the world. Besides the great European capitals where he was inspired by the elegance of high society, this journey took him to the east coast of the United States where cities like Boston and New York built their legends.
This is where a large part of the models in his first collection were inspired, by the different styles of headgear that each profession, each community proudly wore. The caps of Irish dockers, the felts of underworld bandits, the elegant hats of wealthy New York women.
April 1874, Justin Herman is finally back home. He told himself that his grandfather's advice was without doubt his greatest legacy. After having forced his destiny, he was now going to build his legend ...