In his foreword to Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones (the accompanying book to the 2009 V&A exhibition), John Galliano writes, "You shouldn’t ask, 'Why do you wear a hat?' What you should really be asking is 'Why are you not?'" Advocating the wearing of a millinery creation everyday (not just at a wedding, Ascot or in a fashion editorial) is a maxim upheld by Adele Mildred and Gabrielle Djanogly, the founders of Hood: a shopping platform that specialises in wearable and expertly crafted headwear, from cork-stud headbands by Noel Stewart to straw sun-hats by burgeoning milliner Sophie Beale. Mildred and Djanaogly founded Hood in October 2015, having met a few years earlier while working at Stephen Jones' lauded couture atelier. In fact, Djanogly, a veil specialist, still works for Jones part-time. "There is a secretness to veils that I love, they represent a hidden thing inviting interest," she explains.
"Millinery derives from the term 'of Milan', which is such an old-world phrase. We really want to raise up a modern marketplace for milliners worldwide," Djanogly explains of the concept behind Hood. An artisanal industry in financial flux, with emerging milliners impacted by the unprofitable nature of small buys from stockists, return orders, and the closing of suppliers selling materials including hoods and Petersham ribbon, Hood’s network of milliners only create a hat once it is has been ordered online, limiting the wastage of materials, stock and labour. "Even successful milliners are quitting, because it is so hard today to make sales," Mildred explains. "Hood is also about sharing information; like where to get the best Alice bands, because soon there will only be one option!"
Subverting the concept of seasonal buying, Mildred and Djanogly select the pieces sold through Hood from a milliner’s entire archive. A horse reign-embellished cowl from the A/W14 collection of Harvey Santos features alongside House of Flora’s iconic PVC beret, a style worn by Beyoncé on the front cover of The Face in 2003. Stocking Rachel Black’s ruby floral headpieces, paint splattered crowns by 8DIX and Piers Atkinson’s cat eared beanies, the duo’s curation errs on the aesthetic of superstition and sorcery, and also includes Swarovski-embellished veils by Djanogly and Mildred’s moon and third eye 3D headbands. Adopting a couture approach to design, customers can also make changes to the hats they have ordered. "I ended up making one order in metal," Mildred explains. "Sophie Beale also asked if I could specify the hair colour of the woman she was designing a hat for, so she could match it to the headband. It’s wonderful when those details are considered." From military livery to Minnie Mouse, here we take a closer look at the inspirations of three magnificent milliners stocked on Hood…
Awon Golding [see picture above]
"In historic terms you cannot get crazier or better than the 1940s", explains the Hong-Kong born and London-based Awon Golding of her most preferred decade of millinery history. From Lily Daché’s use of kitchen twine, to the lacquered wood shaving used by Madame Agnès, milliners in the 40s used experimental materials in their designs due to wartime limitations. Golding, who worked as a magazine editor in Hong Kong before training in millinery, is equally imaginative in her aesthetic; her S/S14 Colori Gelato collection features 3D ice cream headpieces, with vanilla scoops made from ostrich feather pompoms, adorned with sorbet-hued coque feathers. "I enjoy being flamboyant," explains Golding, who trained with the renowned milliner Edwina Ibbotson, and was selected for Headonism – an initiative curated by Stephen Jones that showcases emerging milliners at London Fashion Week – for S/S15. Her extravagant outlook is one shared by Lady Gaga, who wore Golding’s purple Viola boater in August 2015, complete with a candy crystal studded veil. "I got this email from Lady Gaga’s stylist saying, 'you need to check out her Instagram right now!' Lady Gaga had posted three times wearing the boater. It was a really good morning!"
Harvey Santos first met Mildred and Djanogly during his three-year tenure at Stephen Jones, where he worked on designs including the ostrich plum headpieces for Marc Jacobs’ final S/S14 Louis Vuitton collection, and the elephant and rabbit masks in Thom Browne’s A/W14 menswear show. Crowned as 2013’s Hat Designer of the Year by The HAT Magazine, Santos presented his S/S16 ‘Birdy’ collection as part of Headonism. The Hitchcock-inspired collection features pillbox hats and headdresses adorned with pheasant, peacock and acrylic feathers in tropical fuchsia, yellow and azure blue. "During my mentorship session, Jones explained that the best way to design a collection is to expand on one idea," Santos, a former professional ballet dancer, explains. His A/W16 "Battalion" collection is a celebration of British military uniforms, from brigadier inspired mohair toques embellished with crystals, to guard caps adorned with a tassel of human hair. "Alexander McQueen used to use locks of his own hair in his creations," Santos says. "People wear wigs made from human hair, so why not use it in hat design?"
"I work with hats more as a stylist than as a milliner; I consider them an objet" explains Benoît Missolin, the Provence-born designer who began his career at Christian Lacroix. "I wrote to Lacroix and we started a correspondence," Missolin says on the phone from Florence, "he even called my parents and said 'You should send your son to fashion school!' Imbued with a childlike naiveté, Missolin’s cartoonish S/S16 designs include Minnie Mouse-inspired polka dot headbands (Lacroix also credits Mickey Mouse as a childhood hero), plastic bunny ear caps and pop art-like, lip-embellished veils. Missolin’s materials range from the couture-worthy to the kitsch, and his signature turban headbands are created in both opulent Duchess silk and from vintage scarves sourced in thrift shops. "I consider hats as something you can play with, which is not too serious," explains the designer, who attended the school of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture, and began solely designing hats in 1997, after becoming disenchanted with the commercial restrictions of ready-to-wear. "I was bored with the whole system," he adds. "I have always loved handcraft, and I really need to touch something that I am making. That’s why to me, hats are the perfect accessory."