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One of the things that surprised us at PROJECT was New Era’s EK Collection. Named after company founder Erhardt Koch, the line is inspired by classic and vintage headwear. Certainly a departure from the baseball cap New Era is best known for, the 59fifty.

Wanting to dig a little deeper into EK, we caught up with designer Bill Hodge. We spoke about the intent of the line and its potential to remind of New Era’s rich history as a cap maker.

Read the interview and view a full selection of offerings from New Era’s EK Collection for Spring 2010 after the jump.

SL: How long have been with New Era, how did you come to the company, and what is your background in design?

BH: I began working at New Era in 2004, so about six years ago. I originally worked on our 59fifty silhouette, which is the on field cap of major league baseball. I started there, and transitioned to EK about a year ago. My first developments in the EK line were for Spring 2010 and the line that you saw at Project, which was Fall 2010. I’ve been at EK for about a year but before that I did all kinds of design work on the 59fifty.

I went to school to be a graphic designer. I was applying all over the place trying to find something out of school and I’m from Buffalo so there are not really that many places to look and find a job in the fashion industry. New Era was hiring, I applied, and I’ve been here ever since.

SL: Kind of a lucky strike.

BH: Yeah, right here in my back yard. I was familiar with New Era, but I didn’t know the business was growing and that they were looking for new people. I took my advantage and it’s been really good. I switched over from 59fifty because I was looking for a change, with EK we do a range of different caps and I felt I had a wider palate to work with that the standard 59fifty.

SL: Absolutely. I wondered if you could tell me a little about the origins of the EK Collection?

BH: EK is a smaller offset of what we do at New Era. With on field caps for baseball we have a lot of licenses and projects that we work with – you know NBA, with hardwood classics, baseball obviously, and the NHL. A lot of our business is licensed product. EK is an offshoot back to the origins and founder of the company, Ehrhart Koch. Basically, we did a few lines in 2006 and it started out really high end. It has been a progression. Project was the first show we were involved in to get EK out there and let people know that this is still part of the main brand of New Era, just more lifestyle driven aspect. Something completely different from the standard licensed product. We’re trying to build the EK brand and put the flag first. Clean things up and make the caps nicely detailed, every day wearable pieces. And, fit to the standards established on the MLB side and license side, where the fit and look is the basic standard in headwear.

The origins further – we’re looking to continue to build the line and progress with nice materials and fabrics. That is basically it. It is a lifestyle driven thing and we hope it can take off.

SL: Obviously New Era has flagship stores and is well known for its licensed caps. But, this seems the first time or push to note New Era as a hat maker. I know that in the past other sportswear companies contracted New Era to produce their hats. So, there is a long tradition of hat making at New Era.

BH: This is different avenue. It can spawn into other companies seeing this and doing even more custom caps with different silhouettes. It really is the first attempt to get out there. We’re looking to build as much as we can with EK. There are also offshoots in Japan and we do a collaboration with the UK office.

SL: Are there fabrics you’ve been particularly excited to work with since you moved to the EK line?

BH: The fabrics, it was a learning process. I’m coming from a graphic design background, and to learn the different fabrics, like the tweeds and cashmere and leathers, it was a big change from working on the 59fifty. It is different. People have really gravitated toward the wools we used in the duckbill. We shop the markets in China looking for key pieces and request different twills and plaids. All types of things we think fit the trends we are forecasting.

SL: What are your personal favorites from this season?

BH: I really like the runners we did and the linen cotton blend. I think it is a really clean look. Probably one of the nicest fabrics we’ve used for the EK line. I like the EK Trawler, the straw hat.

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