James Pink Studio, the New Label Changing the Hatmaking Game

Pin It
James Pink Studio Autumn/Winter 2020
James Pink Studio Autumn/Winter 2020Photography by William Scarborough, styling by Molly Shillingford

We meet Leeds-based hatmaker and Central Saint Martins graduate James Rushfirth, who has just launched his exquisite first collection online

  1. Who is it? Marrying the all-but-lost craftsmanship of milliners past with a contemporary eye, James Pink Studio hats are made to be special, personal pieces which might just become part of your identity
  2. Why do I want it? Romantic, unisex hats that blend historical styles, military and streetwear influences “with an overall British feel”
  3. Where can I get it? You can shop James Pink Studio Autumn/Winter 2020 via the designer’s new website, jamespinkstudio.com

Who is it? James Rushfirth refrains from using the title ‘milliner’. He prefers ‘hatmaker’, though the hats he makes do possess a nostalgic sort of glamour that is reminiscent of the millinery greats. Born in Leeds, Rushfirth studied Fashion Communication at Central Saint Martins, graduating in 2017. This year though, he decided to move back to his hometown to pursue his dream of founding his own label, James Pink Studio. “I am lucky to have been in Yorkshire because I’ve had the country and freedom to escape outdoors,” Rushfirth says of the move, in light of the strange past few months. “Lockdown for me has been productive; more time to read, draw, finalise the collection and fantasise about the future.” 

Both romantic and undeniably fun, Rushfirth’s hats pay homage to memorable styles of eras past while cleverly reinterpreting them for the modern day. “I wanted to make hats that feel special but can be worn everyday or in the club without having to worry about them,” the designer says. His debut collection – which launched online last Friday – was born from a melting pot of references and inspirations, consisting of 32 mostly unisex hats that blend historical styles, military and streetwear influences “with an overall British feel”.

“I’ve always wanted to design clothing and looking around I didn’t feel there was much choice in hats, especially for women,” Rushfirth says of his choice to pursue hatmaking, a craft which has drastically waned in popularity since its height in the early to mid-20th century. “Originally, I imagined it being the perfect cross of fashion and sculpture, and since I had made sculptures before it was a good progression,” the designer says. “It felt natural and exciting to design the more wearable, accessible hats and I have become obsessed!” 

James Pink Studio’s debut collection is launched alongside a series of playful 80s-inflected images photographed by William Scarborough and styled by AnOther’s Molly Shillingford. The visuals were inspired by the urban cowboy aesthetic of Buffalo creator Ray Petri, who was the first ‘stylist’, as we understand the word today, and whose signature uniform of MA-1 flight jackets, aviator glasses, military hats and Levi’s jeans influenced the dress code of an entire generation. “I’ve always loved that brand of masculinity and wanted to feel that in the collection too,” says Rushfirth.

Why do I want it? Rushfirth crafts his beautiful pieces from his studio in Yorkshire. Hewn from luxurious satins, velvets and moiré, high quality wools and denim, the 32 hats in the Autumn/Winter 2020 collection are inspired by a wealth of historical references, from the 16th-century Renaissance period to the iconoclastic shapes of military wear. “An era that I find most inspiring is the 1920s, especially the deep fitting Modernist clothes for women,” Rushfirth says. “There’s an understated glamour about those which I’m really drawn to.” Using contemporary fabrics like denim and khaki satin, Rushfirth transforms 20s shapes into his own, opulent versions of the bucket hat – one style of which is even complete with a cinematic layer of mesh. “Another period that I really love and which inspired the quartered oversized berets is the 16th-century Renaissance period,” the designer says, whose dramatic, enlarged berets are reminiscent of those sported in the era of King Henry VIII, which were often worn on a tilted angle with a feather. “I found that look so romantic and handsome and wanted to play with those jaunty shapes in more modern, sporty fabrics.”

Some of the most striking pieces in the collection are versions of early 20th-century military styles such as roll-top caps, sailor’s hats and berets, which are crafted in an array of beautiful fabrics and colours. “I wanted them to be a campy cross of masculine shapes in dress fabrics, to blend uniforms and fashions of that era for a contemporary look,” Rushfirth explains. “The berets with the ribbed bands are my favourite designs, so comfortable to wear and they really suit everybody! The first one I made was in khaki, inspired by the ribbing on MA-1 bomber jackets,” Rushfirth says. “I think that shape in those fabrics keeps it very casual, yet strong. All men look good in uniform basically.”

Glimmers of the whimsy and flair of Rushfirth’s millinery heroes are seen in his designs. Among them, it “goes without saying”, Rushfirth jokes, is of course the legendary milliner Stephen Jones, but also the late photographer and hatmaking extraordinaire Bill Cunningham, who designed joyously out-there pieces in the 1940s and 50s before he became a photographer, under the name William J. “His creations were much crazier than mine but his story has been so inspiring for a new designer like me,” Rushfirth says. “Bill is my role model.” Marrying the all-but-lost creativity of milliners past with his own contemporary eye, James Pink Studio hats are made to be special, personal pieces which might just become part of your identity. “Wearing a hat is a personal thing I think,” Rushfirth says. “You become attached to a hat after a while and it becomes you. I want people to feel confident when wearing mine and play with whatever persona it may give them.” 

Where can I get it? You can shop James Pink Studio Autumn/Winter 2020 via the designer’s new website, jamespinkstudio.com

Photography: William Scarborough. Styling: Molly Shillingford. Hair: Franziska Presche. Make-up: Stevie Squires. Models: May at IMG c/o Max Tuson, Shane at IMG c/o Max Tuson, Valentine at Good Catch c/o Sarah Small. Photographic assistants: Stefan Ebelwicz and Tane Mahuta.