How did you get bitten by the millinery bug, and how did you learn the practical skills of the trade?
It’s so cliched, but I can trace the idea of making my own hats back to the Sex & The City movie! I really liked a hat Miranda was wearing when they join Carrie on her failed honeymoon but could find nothing like it at all in the shops. At that point I thought, “Fine, I’ll just make one!” and managed to find some open source instructional guides online.
After a year or so of putting together fascinators I realised I would have to train properly to make progress and I enrolled in a millinery course at Kensington and Chelsea College, where I learned traditional techniques for hat making.
How do you fit millinery around your work?
I maintain my millinery business outside of my full time job. My main job is quite technical, so creating hats allows me to indulge my more creative side. It’s fun; it relaxes me after a long day in the office to work with my hands and I have the satisfaction of seeing the final product come together.
What inspires you with each season’s hats?
When I was just beginning I used to try to theme my designs in line with catwalk trends, thinking that was the thing to do, but I soon realised how restrictive that was.
Now I just constantly doodle ideas whenever something catches my eye—be it a beautifully styled perfume advert or a museum exhibition. Half of the sketches end up in the bin but I collect the ones I like, I re-draw and re-draw and end up with a collection that I’m ready to start working on.
What is the hat-making design and creation process like? How do you stay motivated?
I’ve never been able to stick very strictly to the designs I put down on paper. The design process for me continues through making the hats. When I start to build the design in 3D, I inevitably understand the materials better and the shapes change from what I envisaged in my mind.
Any secret tips for west London life?
The word ‘secret’ reminds me of just one thing: The Detective Agency in Earls Court. I won’t give too much away, simply make an appointment and arrive on time with your friends…
Where are your favourite places to eat in west London?
My absolute favourite restaurant is right by my office: The Gate in Hammersmith. It’s a vegetarian restaurant but no one should make assumptions about the food served—it’s exquisite! If I could eat like that every day I wouldn’t need to touch meat again.
What’s your favourite chill-out film to relax to?
I’m a sucker for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the characters remind me so much of my own family! It’s the perfect Sunday film for me.
Describe your personal style:
Hmmm… my style is pretty relaxed, I like quite loose, draped dresses. I definitely choose dresses over trousers any day and I love bright colours. You will usually see me wrapped up in a chunky scarf as well, which I’ll trade for a statement necklace in summertime.
Who are your favourite designers/brands?
Philip Treacy and Piers Atkinson are a big inspiration to me with their millinery. Fashion-wise I love theatrical designers like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. I very much appreciate the artistry and structured shapes.
One piece of fashion you can’t live without?
I live in sweater dresses and tunic dresses; leggings coming back into fashion was one of the best things to ever happen to my wardrobe!
What fashion philosophy do you live by?
Dress for yourself. Fashion is so much fun; I love clothes and I love make up but it’s there for you to enjoy, not to stress over.
What would your perfect day out in London be?
I’d have to start with a wander around the V&A. It’s always been my favourite of the London museums and on the weekend they do free guided tours where they pick out three or four exhibits to show you—each time I’ve been they have talked about different pieces and I love learning the secret histories of artifacts that I’ve walked past so many times.
I think next I would find my way to Hyde Park to look for an ice-cream van and stake out a place for people-watching. For dinner I’d definitely head to Chinatown to get soup dumplings at Dumplings’ Legend (yes, that is where they put the apostrophe!). I’d finish up with my friends in Bourne and Hollingsworth drinking delicious cocktails.
What is your theme for this season’s hats, and why?
This collection I have nicknamed my Brighton Pier collection: inspired by deck chairs, sunshine and Mr Whippies.
It’s also a tribute to a friend of mine, textiles designer Tara Sharpe. She created some amazing graphic prints, which I have used for several hats in the collection. I definitely have plans to do more with her designs over the summer so watch this space!
What is the most unusual commission you’ve ever had?
A friend once asked me to make a dim sum hat for his girlfriend. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, so in the end settled for the hat body as a platter and laid out felt dim sum on top of it. If you’re curious you can visit my facebook page to see a photo.