In five short years, Caymanian milliner Laura Anderton has generated heavy demand for her custom creations, and it's not hard to see why. With a passion for restrained flourishes her elegant toppers add old world whimsy and sophistication to any outfit.
Interview by Kyle Fulton. Photos by Maggie Jackson.
RL: How did you get interested in millinery?
LA: My interest grew out of a love for textiles. A friend had a special event she was attending that required her to wear hats so I was doing up some pre-made hats for her. I had quite a collection of handmade silk flowers that I had purchased on trips to the UK and Europe and used those to embellish and recreate the hats. Then Nicola De Lima from NKY suggested I do a few for her shop. Shortly there after I decided that I would like to learn how to make hats from the base materials, so I did some research and went to the UK to train with Helen Richardson. Since then I have trained with several well known milliners in the UK and France.
RL: On average how long does it take to make a hat? Take us through the process.
LA: It takes on average between three days to a week to complete a hat, depending on the intricacy of the piece. Many hats – especially summer ones are made from what we call inamay or parasisal straw, and they have to be re-inforced with a foundation fabric. However, if no foundation is necessary then the hat block is selected and measured, then the sinamay is measured, cut and blocked to the hat-block. Then there is drying time, after which the piece is taken off the block, the brim is trimmed and wired, and then the crown is also trimmed and edges finished before being attached to the brim.
RL: What do you find are the greatest challenges in your line of work?
LA: There aren’t any hard challenges per se – it’s just a matter of figuring out ways to make things work when they just won’t. Sometimes you are using a material that you use all the time, and for whatever reason, on that particular day, it’s a challenge. But time and patience usually produces a good result – it’s all about harnessing your creativity.
RL: Do you have a favourite material to work with?
LA: I don’t really have a favourite as such; however, I do like to make my own silk flowers when I need them to embellish hats. I absolutely love how they mould to shape and come to life as you put them together.
RL: What inspires you?
LA: Flowers inspire me! I adore flowers!
RL: Do you have a favourite piece that you have designed?
LA: I truly love all the pieces I’ve made. Because my work is bespoke, each piece has a story and although sometimes I don’t have a vision of what it will be when I begin, it’s a joy to see the finished piece. Sometimes one just has to start the process and then see where it leads. It’s an interesting journey and I enjoy the client relationship that evolves during the creation process.
RL: Tell us about your recent projects.
LA: Lately I have been doing pieces for weddings and leading hat-making classes for the National Trust’s ‘Hatitude’ – which is their most popular fund-raising event.
RL: Do you have a proudest moment?
LA: Yes! I was in France on a course where we were learning to work with a very unusual textile – spatre. It’s only found at very select suppliers in Japan, so it’s quite rare. I was tired and just couldn’t make sense of the piece I was trying to create – it was a hat done from a vintage Christian Dior shape. Several times I threw pieces in the bin and finally decided to give up. Well, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and eventually I did finish it with beautiful cotton organdie and Swarovski crystals. I wore it to dinner that night with a simple black dress and when my classmates saw the finished hat they were all amazed. It was definitely a proud moment to know that I made something so beautiful out of what seemed like it would be nothing.
RL: What is the craziest thing a client has asked you to make?
LA: I haven’t had any super crazy requests as yet, but I’ve really enjoyed experiencing the creativity in my hat-making classes.
RL: What makes for a successful client?
LA: When the client is able to articulate what they would like to ultimately end up with, while at the same time giving me carte blanche to execute the piece.
RL: What are the defining qualities of a handmade Laura Anderton hat?
LA: I think that would be personal, precise, elegant and totally handmade!
RL: What is next for Laura Anderton?
LA: I’m not sure – more courses this year, and hopefully some down time to experiment with textiles. I’m putting together some pieces for clients overseas, so that will take up much of the spring.
To learn more, please contact Laura Anderton at:
Email: ; Phone: 345.916.7754
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