How did you become interested in millinery?
I have been collecting and wearing vintage hats for 25 years. I started making my own hats because I found it impossible to get my size. By wearing the hats I made a vastly different impact on how I was perceived.
It is the transformational aspect of hats that fascinates me – designing a hat that dramatically enhances the way you feel, and reaping intense positive attention from the world. With men in particular, it needs to be stylish and understated, but very carefully refined. It's not like you need to lose 10 kilos, get a facelift or a hair replacement – you just wear a well designed and fitted hat, and all of a sudden everyone notices you.
I realised that this transformation was lost to our generation. We no longer knew how to choose a hat, or even how to find or wear one. Our most powerful clothing item had been reduced to a cap with a logo... and it just doesn't work.
Where and how did you learn hat making?
I am self taught, learning from deconstructing old hats and from the year I had in South America studying how they do their craft.
In the same way, I design and make my own housing, art, cars, furniture, food and clothes. I deeply love using beautiful objects on an everyday basis, and in that sense my hats are all thoroughly practical. For example, I love walking in the rain, and so do all my hats. Practical and beautiful things enrich our lives.
How long have you been a hat maker for? Where else did you work?
Strictly speaking, I am a hatmaker, not a milliner, but half of my customers are women. For the past two years hats have been my only passion. Prior to this I owned a music venue and worked as a sleep scientist, systems engineer, IT consultant and various hideous careers that bored me to tears (but are weirdly relevant now).
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
Initially I studied old images of bluesman, artists, painters, musicians, 60's French new wave and avante garde. Since then I have been collecting images of my own hats on other people's heads – I have over 8000 of them. Seeing my hats worn is infinitely satisfying.
What has been your most enjoyable commission?
Sewing a profoundly elegant gold Rolex wristwatch into the band of my favourite herringbone weave hat. Creating, as far as I know, the first hat watch – integrating old with new and incidentally making a very, very beautiful hat that can tell the time (if you don't mind the ticking).
How would you describe your style of hats?
Bespoke short-brimmed panama straw trilbys in a rich array of complex Ecuadorian weaves. Conservative and subversive.
Who do you make hats for?
I make hats for musicians, writers, anarchists, bellboys, dizzy celebrities, movie star rehabs, discredited royalty, intellectual outlaws and angels who have fallen from grace. They are real hats to be worn to death like a well loved pair of handmade shoes.
What materials and techniques do you favour?
Toquilla straw is my all-time favourite. I love the look of felts, but the function, beauty and authenticity of this straw is all inspiring. Not so much the bleached white hard style, but the subtle textures and weaves of Ecuador's national artform. Holding those delicate weaves in my hand feels so authentically human – imperfect, complex and rich.
Do you have any other interests, hobbies?
Apart from hat evangelizing, I like to take 1000s of photos (often of my hats), documentary film making, sleeping a lot, walking in the forest with my sons and my all-time passion of evolving a new paradigm of sleep and consciousness (which I hope to result in an even grander transformation of people's lives).
I have attached some images from my upcoming photographic exhibition, combining hats, photography and self portraiture – real people off the street in real hats – interesting art in itself.