Jess Collett Milliner is a true master of hats & believes, quite simply, that life is more fun when your style reaches your head. Be it a casual everyday hat, the current headband mania or a truly statement head piece for the most stylish of occasions, Jess lives by the rule that adventures are to be had, head first!
She describes her style as colourful, elegant and edgy with a splash of rock ‘n roll & bestows this on some of the most influential women in the world. We sat down with Jess recently to learn more about the hat making process, where she draws her inspiration and her favourite TROY looks.
Wearing a hat can feel a little daunting for many, what would you say to encourage those of us who love hats to get out and wear them a little more?
Be brave! Usually people tell me they feel self-conscious wearing hats because they think people are looking at them. People ARE looking but only because they LOVE what they see. Hat wearers appear confident, so embrace that feeling and see what adventures your hat will take you on. You can also hide behind a hat - it’s useful sometimes.
If you want to test the water, the current head band or head scarf mania is the perfect introduction - a fun way to express yourself without making too much of a statement.
Your beautiful designs are worn by some of the world's most influential women at formal events from weddings to race meetings, how would you define your style aesthetic?
Colourful, elegant and edgy with a splash of rock ‘n roll... and very well made.
What is your approach to colour - matchy matchy or should we be brave?!
Generally, I prefer to blend colours, keeping the look within a palette. Bright with brights, pastels with pastels, or think in seasons. But it depends on how brave I’m feeling. If you have confidence you can pull almost anything off. Look at Gucci!
Tell us a little bit about the technical process of creating your hats and where you draw your creative inspiration from.
A hat is usually sparked by an idea; this could be from nature and its beautiful colours, from films, museums and different cultures, icons like David Bowie and Hollywood film stars from the past, Art Deco, or even a fabric can inspire a hat.
We use so many different skills in millinery. It’s a really traditional craft. The process often starts with dyeing your chosen material which could be anything from straw, felt or plastic - anything really - and then steaming and stretching this fabric over wooden shapes, this is called blocking. Then a lot of ironing, stiffening, cutting and hand sewing to achieve your perfect shape and finally adding a trim. I make flowers, manipulate feathers, wire beads and hand mould a myriad of materials. Using my hands and creating hats is for me, like meditation.
Your life is busy with your growing business and a young family. What does your typical day look like?
I wake up at 6.45am and make Eva (13) and Scout (12) their packed lunches and pack them off to school.
I bike to the studio along the canal with Tilly the dog, and when I arrive, I have a coffee and a croissant from the Tin Shed. Then I am ready for the day.
My studio is my show room and my workspace so, when clients come in, they can very much see all the processes which go on. I think they love to see the girls working on designs and the heavily stacked boxes bursting with feathers and ribbons whilst they try on different shapes.
I’m constantly chatting with Shannon and Daisy (my girls) about new ideas, and what to have for lunch - usually a falafel from the Happy Vegetarian - the little stand outside Tesco on Portobello. We are very loyal customers!
I go to Oxford Street and often to Luton (traditionally the ladies’ hat centre in the UK) for hat supplies or if I need a specific fabric for a bespoke creation.
We can also often be spotted on All Saints Road dressed up in frocks and hats taking snaps for Instagram too. I love dressing up. That’s what started my love of hats.
In the busy periods I can find myself in the studio all hours. I’m very fortunate to have a lovely husband who will cook for our kids (I usually burn things as I’m easily distracted so really, they are delighted!)
I go to bed at 11 and either read (I have just read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - a great book) or watch an episode of a box set on my phone.
You also create hats for more casual wear and your World Travellers are often seen shading pretty heads at Wimbledon! We love how you have styled the with the TROY Utility dress here for your stroll through Notting Hill! What other occasions do people look to buy one of your summer styles?
The World Traveller hat is the most versatile hat I have made. I have been sent pictures of people wearing the World Traveller at weddings, the polo, Henley, children’s sports days and from the Bahamas to Glasto. Once I spotted one in Paris on the banks of the Seine.
For my couture hats, Royal Ascot is the main event, but the British summer season is sprinkled with occasions that require hats.
You look great in TROY and it has been lovely to grow our brands alongside each other. Which looks from the summer collection are your favourite?