Prestige Magazine Prestige Spring 2016 : Page 52

©K ali P hotograPhy Couture Crowns The art of hatmaking, while not as prevalent as it used to be, thrives in the luxury realm. By Sarah Binder © d avid g iPson P hotograPhy ©a manda B runs H courtesy m aggie m ae d esigns ats are often thought of as being old-fashioned, or out of style. Yet, a slew of talented couture milliners nation-wide continue to outfit their loyal clientele in a variety of show-stopping headpieces. These designers combine Old World skills, artistic passion, and hands-on customer ser-vice to create custom, luxurious hats rang-ing from British fascinators to French berets. “The sculptural nature of these designs changes a person’s entire silhouette,” explains designer Leah Chalfen of Leah C. Couture Millinery in Manhattan. “When someone is dressed up and excited about an event, the emotion is in their eyes and smile, so the focus is on their head, face and neckline. A couture headpiece provides an aura, a presence.” The one-on-one service a client receives while being fitted for a hat resembles the experience of purchasing a tailor-made suit, explains Louisville, Kentucky-based designer Jenny Pfanenstiel. “I love involving my customers in the process, having them select the materials and try on different shapes,” she says. “Once they’re putting their hat on for the very first time, seeing how they react is priceless. They smile a little bigger and stand a little taller. The confidence that a custom hat provides can’t be accomplished in any other way.” As owner of Formé Millinery, Pfanenstiel has created pieces for storied clients such as First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. A custom headpiece can serve as a crowning accessory; yet it is just as often the inspiration for an entire ensemble. “My clients and I usually start with the hat and work down; it’s the main course and everything else just complements it,” says designer Sally Faith Steinmann of Maggie Mae Designs, based in South Harwich, Massachusetts. No matter the catalyst for the design 52 berkshirehathawayhs.com

Couture Crowns

Sarah Binder

The art of hatmaking, while not as prevalent as it used to be, thrives in the luxury realm.

Hats are often thought of as being old fashioned, or out of style. Yet, a slew of talented couture milliners nationwide continue to outfit their loyal clientele in a variety of show-stopping headpieces. These designers combine Old World skills, artistic passion, and hands-on customer service to create custom, luxurious hats ranging from British fascinators to French berets.

“The sculptural nature of these designs changes a person’s entire silhouette,” explains designer Leah Chalfen of Leah C. Couture Millinery in Manhattan. “When someone is dressed up and excited about an event, the emotion is in their eyes and smile, so the focus is on their head, face and neckline. A couture headpiece provides an aura, a presence.”

The one-on-one service a client receives while being fitted for a hat resembles the experience of purchasing a tailor-made suit, explains Louisville, Kentucky-based designer jenny Pfanenstiel. “I love involving my customers in the process, having them select the materials and try on different shapes,” she says. “Once they’re putting their hat on for the very first time, seeing how they react is priceless. They smile a little bigger and stand a little taller. The confidence that a custom hat provides can’t be accomplished in any other way.” As owner of Formé Millinery, Pfanenstiel has created pieces for storied clients such as First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.

A custom headpiece can serve as a crowning accessory; yet it is just as often the inspiration for an entire ensemble.“My clients and I usually start with the hat and work down; it’s the main course and everything else just complements it,” says designer Sally Faith Steinmann of Maggie Mae Designs, based in South Harwich, Massachusetts.

No matter the catalyst for the design Process, fine materials are equally as important to the art as a designer’s mastery of traditional millinery techniques, says Chalfen. Specializing in feather and trim work, she enhances her signature design, a classic mini beret, with high-quality, millinery-specific materials.

“I recommend that the mini beret be worn on an angle so that we still see the shape of the wearer’s head. I build up from there to create balance,” Chalfen says. “The drama is in the extensions that I add with different materials, such as pheasant feathers and velour tassels.” In addition to the mini beret, Chalfen notes that cocktail hats are popular for their cosmopolitan feel. Her designs have been featured in fashion editorials shot by legends such as Karl Lagerfeld and Bruce Weber.

Stylists often use hats to dictate the mood of designers’ runway shows and translate the feel of their collections, says New York City-based stylist and fashion blogger Megan Averbuch. “At Seoul Fashion Week last year, stylist Ye Young Kim styled Yves Saint Laurent’s show, which embraced ‘cool girl grunge’ with dainty, gorgeous headpieces,” she explains. “The juxtaposition was interesting and gave depth to the show.” Averbuch adds that hats help to set the place and time in photo shoots and period films.

While couture millinery is active in cities, films and on runways, perhaps the most well-known occasion for the tradition is the Kentucky Derby. Steinmann grew up following the Triple Crown Races and always adored the drama of wide-brimmed hats. “Silk organza. One-hundred-percent linen. I’m in love with these materials, and I was always captivated by movies like My Fair Lady,” she says. “I absolutely love the large canvas; it offers so much opportunity to be dramatic and go wild.”

Steinmann recently fulfilled a lifelong dream when one of her designs, a green and purple chapeau, was worn at last year’s Derby by a woman with a connection to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. “She was part of the original American Pharoah team back when they trained him and realized that they had something really brilliant on their hands. She found me, and we created a couple of hats. That hat means so much to me and it did to her, too,” she says.

Regardless of their location, style and clientele, each couture milliner is part of a small, yet passionate group of artists that feels compelled to keep their craft alive. “My goal is to inform the public and let them know that millinery still exists. I am proud to keep this tradition alive and incorporate these age-old techniques while putting a spin on them as well,” says Pfanenstiel. “Even though the industry is not as big as it once was, millinery in the U.S. is alive and well.”

Read the full article at http://www.luxurymedia.digital/article/Couture+Crowns/2412501/291459/article.html.

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