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Meet the New Generation of Milliners Making Hats Cool Again

maryam keyhani

Maryam Keyhani with a feather found in an antique market. Photo: Katherine Holland

Heads up: hats are back and better than ever. Gone are the days where head dressing was associated with the ostentatious displays at Royal Ascot or the ill-fated trilby that became a cheesy default — a new wave of talented milliners are breaking the internet with their distinctive creations. 

From Rihanna’s custom Benny Andallo faux-fur bucket hat (it shows the power of exaggerated proportions) to Harry Styles’s modern black velvet beret from James Pink Studios and the theatrical eight-inch tall Esenshel number that Jennifer Lopez wore at Milan Fashion Week, designers are pushing the envelope of contemporary hat-making. 

Here, Vogue meets seven milliners you need to know now.

1. Maryam Keyhani

maryam keyhani

Maryam Keyhani wearing her bestselling ‘In the Cloud’ hat. Photo: Katherine Holland

“I like to think of grown-ups playing dress-up with my hats in the same way that a child would,” says Persian artist and milliner Maryam Keyhani, 39, of her imaginative creations. With a knack for voluminous shapes and delightful textures, the designer blurs the line between sculpting and hat-making. 

What is it about hats that you enjoy?

“You put on a hat and it does what you need it to: protect you, get or take attention away, and play or hide.”

What makes your pieces unique and who have you loved seeing wear your work?

“I don’t have a millinery background and I find that to be an advantage. Children are my favourite to dress, they put on a hat and are instantly transformed into a world of fantasy.”

What are your hopes for the future of fashion in a post-pandemic world? 

“For it to be less about trends and more about joy, pleasure and play.”

2. Benny Andallo

Photo: Courtesy of Benny Andallo

Self-described ‘silly crown designer’, Benny Andallo, 28, has made waves with his psychedelic creations (Rihanna and Shygirl are fans). Silly his work isn’t — the Filipino-British milliner puts enjoyment at the centre of his designs, with the aim of uplifting and enhancing the confidence of the wearer. 

What inspires your creations?

“Growing up in London, I’ve always been inspired by the city’s eclecticism. My creations are a union of these influences, and wanting to season and spice the traditional.”

What makes your pieces unique and who’s your dream person to dress?

“I make every hat myself and make design decisions as I go; it’s very instinctive. I’d scream [with joy] if I saw Gemma Collins or Katie Price in my hats.”

How are you staying creative right now?

“Creativity keeps your mind stimulated and distracted from the current bleakness. I have an urge to create for brighter days of the future.”

3. Ruslan Baginskiy

Photo: Courtesy of Ruslan Baginskiy

From Bella Hadid and Kaia Gerber to Madonna, Ruslan Baginskiy, 31, has become the cult celebrity go-to hat label. Reimagining classic pieces including the fedora and boater into contemporary wardrobe staples, the Ukrainian milliner intends on making headwear accessible and cool again. 

How did you get into millinery and who were you inspired by?

“I started out as a stylist and couldn’t find hats for shoots, so I decided to make them myself. Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones are my icons.”

What makes your pieces unique and who do you enjoy seeing wear your work?

“Everything is made in Kyiv and we travel throughout Ukraine in search of different hat blocks and local techniques. I enjoy it most when my friends and family wear my designs.”

What’s been something positive from the pandemic? 

“I have become even closer to my team — we are more united than ever and have set new priorities and redefined our values. As soon as this long-awaited post-pandemic world comes, we are ready to act.”

4. James Pink Studio 

Photo: Courtesy of James Pink Studio

British milliner James Pink, 26, merges historical style and contemporary streetwear with his genderless creations. From his atelier in Leeds, the Central Saint Martins graduate uses a combination of traditional techniques and modern fabrics that result in a chic and campy mix of references. And, how can we forget, his pieces have been worn by Harry Styles.

What drew you to millinery? 

“There was a lack of hats available for everyday wear that felt special and accessible. The more I absorbed myself in the history of millinery, the more design possibilities emerged.” 

What makes your pieces unique and who have you loved seeing wear your work? 

“I respond instinctively to materials and then make the hats by hand in the studio. I’m amazed by how far the reach has been, seeing my pieces worn by people in Japan, for example, gives me such satisfaction.”

Why is it important we all embrace creativity right now?

“The luxury of any design work is that you can imagine a complete otherness. If we fill our minds with inspiration, being able to process that into a tangible object provides a great amount of relief.”

5. Esenshel

Photo: Courtesy of Esenshel

“I’ve always loved hats, they have transformative powers,” New York-based milliner and Esenshel founder Rodney Patterson, 58, tells Vogue. Renowned for modern reinterpretations of classic styles, the master hat maker has worked with Billy Porter, Cynthia Erivo and Jennifer Lopez, and is a trusted go-to for unique designs that are handcrafted to perfection.” 

What drew you to millinery? 

“A person’s confidence and posture changes when they know they are wearing a great hat.”

What makes your pieces unique and who have you loved seeing wear your work? 

“I look at traditional headwear styles of the past and explore ways of reinterpreting them. I don’t have a dream person in mind to wear my hats, I’m more interested in people wearing them because they bring them joy.”

What are your hopes for the future of fashion in a post-pandemic world? 

“That it will become much more thoughtful of the planet.”

6. Poche

Photo: Courtesy of Poche

French-Japanese-American milliner Jiro Maestu, 29, not only has an artful approach to hat-making but also a strong emphasis on sustainable practices that discourage overproduction. Existing outside the conventional season-led business structure, the Los Angeles-based designer puts out his chameleonic pieces on his own schedule.

What drew you to millinery? 

“There’s something about wearing things on your head that brings a confidence other garments cannot.”

What makes your pieces unique and who have you loved seeing wear your work?

“We operate on a small scale and each hat is worked on by hand in my studio. My grandmother wore a Poche hat once. That was my favorite.”

What are your hopes for the future of fashion in a post-pandemic world? 

“I’m happy that the traditional fashion system has been disrupted and hope to see more disruption. Less global brands and more of friends making things for each other.”

Read Next: Inside Persian Milliner and Artist Maryam Keyhani’s Dreamworld

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