The story of Daisy Darling is a personal one that began with me making cloche hats for my daughters, Eleanor and Martha and it grew from people stopping me in the street and asking where they could buy them. At first I just produced childrens millinery but I soon realised after watching customers trying to squeeze their heads into them that it was time to focus on adult designs!
For me, millinery is a real labour of love; hard work but artistically fulfilling. It takes upwards of two days to manufacture each hat but my clients know that the end result is unique. The art of bespoke hat making is a skill which could so easily have been lost without the support of customers wanting something unique and understanding the importance of something being handcrafted.
The felts themselves are sourced from British supplier Baxter, Hart and Abraham, a Luton-based family business who have been trading for over 200 years. Britain has a huge history in millinery. Places such as Stockport were once home to over 100 hatting businesses and now even boasts a museum dedicated to millinery.
The hats themselves are blocked on antique blocks in the traditional way. I don’t use a pattern, preferring instead for each piece to be individual. The smaller pillbox style felts are more difficult to shape but can be piled high with wonderful vintage flowers. To me they are like the cupcake of the millinery world, a small base topped with delicious looking flowers and trims. They are always worn at a slight angle and further forward on the head making them ideal for occasions like weddings.
The cloche is my favourite style as it looks great on most people and can be made in felt or straw. It frames the face and gives the wearer a slightly coquettish look as they peer from beneath its brim. It’s a classic 20’s style and became popular due to the fashion for shorter hairstyles and drop waist dresses. It gives me lots of choice with trim from simple felt shapes with vintage buckles to antique silk flowers and vintage French ribbons.
I source original trims from antique fairs, dealer friends and The Vintage Bazaar http://thevintagebazaar.blogspot.co.uk/ that I run with my friend Liz Van Hasselt. Originally designed to showcase the most eclectic and inspiring of traders and designers in the UK, the VB has grown to become a real celebration of the best of British vintage and chic recycling. I have built up quite a collection of vintage ribbon, silk flowers and other embroidered trims although parting with them can sometimes be a bit of a wrench as I know it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find them at a reasonable price!
In the past few years I’ve seen hat wearing grow from a niche fashion into an increasingly popular trend, perhaps in part thanks to Angelina Jolie in The Changeling, the women of Downton Abbey or Baz Luhrmann’s hotly anticipated new production of The Great Gatsby. Personally, the roaring twenties have always fascinated me. It seems that women really found their voice during the period with changes in fashion reflecting their newly acquired role in society. ‘The Bright Young Things’ were gadding about London, Dorothy Parker was beguiling and offending in equal measure and the era just oozed decadence, wit and elegance. I hope that in some way my work reflects this mixture of style and joie de vivre.
--My work can be found at The Vintage Bazaar events in Frome, The Original Vintage and Handmade Fair events in Chipping Sodbury and the vintage haven ‘Poot’ in Frome, Somerset.