It looked like an audition for a remake of "The Maltese Falcon." The first floor of Raleighs was crowded with people trying on detective hats. Next to the Perrier and cheese balls stood the mad hatter, Marsha Akins. Dressed in black, her eyes peeping out from under a wide brim, she was literally dripping in gold jewelry; long gold chains were hanging from her earcuffs and touching her shoulders. Akins was in town last week, helping people choose new hats.
Marsha Akins' hats, called Makins, are far less outrageous than the hatter herself. For both men and women, each hat has a different touch, a braided band, a feather, a big beaded paisley, but all are handmade and in exquisitely simple shapes. Some are fezzes and berets, but mostly they are the low-crowned "slouch" hats for which Akins is famous. They come in more than 150 colors, the best sellers at the moment being black and berry.
Akins says she's already finished her spring 1986 collection, "designed on wooden kiddie blocks and rubber tubing, and one day I just took some old hats and started cutting back the brims." She began Makins Hats 11 years ago by blocking hats on a jiffy steamer in her kitchen. Now she's starting a lower priced line, called Makins II, scheduled to be on the shelves in spring, of linen and cotton hats and reversible caps.
Akins, whose designs are worn by Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra, has proudly added a new head to her list. A die-hard "Miami Vice" fan, the star-struck designer said, "Once, I watched Tubbs Philip Michael Thomas wearing one of my hats for most of the show."