Alberto Hernandez and Kristin Fedyk Hernandez’s love story begins on Abbot Kinney Boulevard — he a third-generation hatmaker from Mexico churning out chapeaus for celebrity hatter Nick Fouquet, she a bubbly and entrepreneurial Canadian building a boutique specializing in Australian designers.
“Our stores were right beside each other, so that’s how we met and fell in love … in the back alley … by the dumpsters,” Kristin, 35, says with a giggle, recalling how Alberto’s sense of humor charmed her. “When I met ’Berto he was speaking Spanish almost all the time, and all the dishwashers and people from Tasting Kitchen would be out back in the alleyway and they would just be cracking up at ’Berto, like laughing! And I was like, ‘This guy must be funny.’”
After-work hangout sessions blossomed into a romantic and creative partnership that took them to Mar Vista. The now-married couple owns the Venice Boulevard fashion boutique Inland, where Alberto runs his custom hat brand Meshika. His assorted toppers hang on the wall, a backdrop for Kristin’s curation of indie fashions.
Alberto’s creations have donned the likes of Lady Gaga, Johnny Depp, Madonna, Pharrell Williams and Tyra Banks. A sewing station in the back of the shop is where he meets with clients and puts the finishing touches on his “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”-inspired hats. He’ll cap off his bespoke masterpieces with a playing card, a feather, a dried rose; sometimes he’ll light them on fire for an extra-distressed look, or line them with a drawing from a friend for extra luck on top of his own blessing: “Every single hat that I make, I speak to them. I tell them ‘You’re going to good places. … Please make these people
look good and feel comfortable and feel happy,” he says.
Kristin encourages custom hat clients to bring something special, like a family heirloom, to inspire the design process and decorate the hat. Alberto’s even adorned a hat with the ashes of a beloved dog, whose best dog friend inexplicably stopped by the shop one day to pay his respects.
“I always joke we should have a show,” Kristin says of the comedy and “magic” of “shop life.”
The name Meshika comes from the word the Aztecs used to describe themselves, and Alberto takes inspiration from the headpieces the Aztecs would wear to communicate status and identity.
“They were headpieces like with feathers — maybe with jaguar skull heads, and if you wore a jaguar skull head that means you were a warrior … you were a mean warrior,” says Alberto, 30. “It tells a story. Same with my hats. I want it to be something special that will mean something.”
But often it’s the smaller purchases that mean the most to the couple.
“Venice High kids buying with their allowance or their minimum wage job … like a $20 necklace, means more to me than a $1,000 garment sale because they worked harder for that $20. It touches me deeply that they would want to spend it to support us,” says Kristin.
“Now Meshika is called ‘Meshika for the People,’” says Alberto, who’s developing a line of sustainable hats at an affordable price point. “We want to serve the community, our community. Local people.” ”
— Christina Campodonico