quick facts Milliner Sharon Bainbridge

Milliner: Sharon Bainbridge

Location: Halifax, England

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How did you become interested in millinery?

I became interested in millinery quite subconsciously really. I loved wearing hats as a New Romantic in the 1980s whilst studying for my law degree. I have always been fascinated by fashion starting buying "Vogue" when I was 11 and was drawn to the way a hat completed the look in the collections of Vivienne Westwood, etc. When I was heavily pregnant with my first son, I had to go to a family wedding and found a wonderful Sandra Phillips hat which was the spark.On moving to the North of England I retrained in textiles and began to see the many possibilities in creating 3D pieces, so began a millinery course.

I made some hats whilst on my textiles course, then started to train with couture milliner Peter Kingston Youel in 1999 at Leeds College of Art and Design. After completing this I also studied the City and Guilds Millinery courses in Huddersfield to focus my skills whilst setting up business.

Where and why did you learn millinery?

I made some hats whilst on my textiles course, then started to train with couture milliner Peter Kingston Youel in 1999 at Leeds College of Art and Design. After completing this I also studied the City and Guilds Millinery courses in Huddersfield to focus my skills whilst setting up business.

How long have you been a milliner for?

I have been a milliner for 6 years, I also teach millinery at Leeds College of Art and Design and initially taught textiles as well.

Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

The inspiration for my designs comes from many different sources. Sometimes the materials lead you to a hat design, sometimes a new block shape. I am also influenced by films from old 50s classics to the wonderful visuals in Hong Kong cinema to sci fi films like "Dune" and "Blade Runner". A walk on the Yorkshire Moors can be as inspiring as anything though.

What has been your most enjoyable commission?

One of my favourite commissions was for a regular customer who likes to create an elegant stir at the races. I had recently discovered the joys of working with wire to create sculptural forms and she was eager to try something radical. So a sweeping shape was created to work on top of a small cap, the shape was covered with silver grey ribbon and then woven with silver organza ribbon, it was worn with a silver shift dress and was much admired apparently.

How would you describe your style of hats?

My style is a mix of my textiles background and my love of uncluttered clean shapes. So my hats are usually simply trimmed and the shape is the focus, I also use a lot of crin in my work.

Who do you make hats for?

I make hats for a broad spectrum of customers, mother of the bride, race goers, Royal Garden Parties, occasionally winter hats but those are usually for art galleries.

What materials and techniques do you favor?

I love working with felts and straws I am not overly keen on sinamay unless it is unstiffened, where I then dye it and create free form shapes. I also like to use vintage finds and am trying to build up my knowledge to use more eco friendly fabrics such as hemp or recycled fabrics. At the moment I do use a lot of crin and am unsure of its eco credentials so will need to find a new solution. I am constantly seeking and trying out new ways of working so I think that my work and way of working is changing all the time.

Any other interests?

I have two sons of 11 and 13 who keep me very busy and two rescue dogs that I love walking. My family all windsurf so I am often to be found by the sea or a lake walking the dogs. I am very into music mainly indie music but I love a good song.

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