Hats on heads – I wish it were compulsory! I would have relished living in the days of the well dressed, when a hat was part of daily life and dressing from top to toe was just exactly that.
If you know me, you know of my collection of hats and it has been one of my long time ambitions to learn how make one. Well, I finally got the chance when I met the lovely Dominique Hanke, milliner of Hive Mind Millinery. We hit it off instantly – I think it was the combination of her fascinating fascinator and the fact that she is a fellow Brit. All she had to mention was a few bits about tea, how Canadians don’t understand our accents and that she’d show me how to make a hat – I was sold!
I paid a visit to her home studio to interview her whilst making my very own little (and very charming) chapeux!
I love this workspace!
Stacks of vintage hat blocks
When did you start making hats and what made you realize that it was something you were interested in?
Millinery has been a life long fascination, but for a long time it was the wearing that held more interest. Then about 4 or 5 years ago I got bitten by the bug, and it became my mission to find out how to make them for myself.
What’s behind the name “Hive Mind Millnery” and how did it come about?
Ha, it is from my unconscious connection to the “hive” as my husband puts it. I have for as long as I can remember had a fascination with fashion, but I like to think of myself as someone who wears their own style, not so much a fashion follower. However, no mater how much I try to be unique, when I put together an outfit so often I will find with in weeks the same look will be in the high street stores. I obviously absorb the fashion queues with out even realizing.
How would you describe the style of your hats?
I like to think they are a contemporary take on the traditional. They are fun with an edge, but still wearable.
What is the process for making a hat?
The majority of my hats are made using traditional millinery techniques, of hand blocking materials over wooden blocks (many of the blocks are in fact antiques!) using steam, stiffener and my body weight I wrestle the material over and into the desired form. After the material has been tied down it then dries, once dried it is carefully removed from it’s block, the brim or rim is then wired and a head sizing ribbon put in, after that the ribbon and trims are added. Almost all of my sewing is done by hand, creating a truly handmade one-of-a-kind piece.
What are your favorite fabrics to work with and which is your favorite hat that you have made so far?
I love velor felt, the texture and hues of the fabric are so luxurious. As for my favorite hat, that is so hard. I would have to say it is generally the piece I am working on at the time, recently I’ve worked a lot with Crinoline making some stylized fascinators, in perfect time for the races!
Do you think hats should only be worn practically?
No, I think hats should be apart of all outfits, at the very least a head dressing of some kind should be worn. so often these days people dress from the neck down, when our heads are the most prominent part of our bodies. Hats can help you give your outfit that final flair, or give you something to hide behind if you want to be unseen. They are practical but also expressive. So often people use the reasoning “I don’t suit hats”, which is simply untrue, people just don’t know what hat’s to wear. No one says I can’t wear pants they don’t suit me, because we all know we have to find the right style for us. It is the same with hats, you need to try a few styles to find the right one and as with any clothing, sometimes one needs a little help from an expert eye and that is where a good milliner comes in.
If you could choose one celebrity head to place one of your lovely hats on, who would it be?
One… Hmm that’s tough! I would have to go with Daphne Guinness for her willingness to go out of the box with her fashion, yet still remain timelessly graceful.
Do you think a hat says something about the person wearing it?
As much as any item of clothing does we make the choice to wear it so somewhere it defines an element of the wearer. I think people think to much when it comes to wearing hats, I say if you feel it wear it!
Who is Norbert?
He is is the bell of the ball and a shameless camera hog. He is my hat. he is made from a coyote skull and is adorned with feathers, veil and roses. He is what my art is to me – he is evolution, collaboration and drama.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
There is much going on at the hive over the coming months, we have some fantastic events coming up with local retailers, as well as several fashion shows and the release of our 2013 spring/summer line. Be sure to keep checking our website and Facebook page for details.
And now for the hat making…
This was a 2 part process, the first was steaming, molding, cutting and pinning the fabric to my chosen hat block. It’s then left to dry for a day or two before the finishing is done!
Dominique shows me how it’s done on a hat she started working on.
Another highlight of this whole experience was this delightful apron I got to wear – it took me back to the yellow apron I used to wear when I made my mom breakfast in bed in my younger days.
Pinning the fabric to the block. Not an easy thing to do – phew!
After my hat had dried I returned to stitch in the piping and sew in the finishing, elastic band and label.
stitching in the piping
And the final product…