How I became a milliner
Starting a millinery business takes a lot of time, a lot of resources, and a lot of patience! I don't believe that just anybody has the stomach for it, and you definitely need to have a lot of passion in order to pursue this path.
I have been sewing since the age of eight, and I knew then on that I was destined to work in the fashion industry. I met a guidance counsellor 3 times over the course of my high school years, and my career choice never budged.
I got my first apartment when I was 17 (basically right out of high school) and couldn't financially afford to go to college. I ended up signing up for the fashion design program at Lasalle College when I was 20 years old, and I quit after the first year because once again, I couldn't keep up financially (Lasalle College being a private school).
I gave jewelry making a try, and even started taking a metalsmith class at ''École de Joaillerie de Montréal'' around the age of 25, but quickly realized that I had too much of a passion for textile to work with metal and rocks.
After taking a stab at jewelry making, I felt like I was stuck in a rut. My dream of working in the fashion industry seemed to be slowly slipping out of my grasp and I was desperately trying to find my place without having any financial resources. All of a sudden it hit me! Why hadn't I looked into this before? I remembered my love of hats, and then thought about the possibility of learning how to make them!
A quick search online brought me to only one person - Lucie Gregoire. She was offering an introductory class to millinery, and I signed up.
I knew right after the first of 3 classes that I had finally found my medium! The only problem was that millinery was, and still is, a dying trade, and that I would need much more than 3 classes to develop my skills. I would also need to acquire expensive equipment and materials that are hard to find, especially in Canada. That was the end of that venture for a little while, finding myself once again disappointed by my financial limitations, but a heart full of hope for a Medium that had my name all over it.
Not long after, I finally heard about a trade school named ''École des métiers des Faubourgs'' that was offering a free pattern design program. Needless to say, I signed up right away. At last I felt like I was going to fulfill my lifelong dream of working in this industry!
During the two year program, I had been simultaneously practicing, experimenting, and researching anything that had to do with millinery. When came the time to find a month long internship, I made the crucial decision to intern with Lucie Gregoire (The milliner with whom I had taken the Introduction to millinery class 3 years prior), rather than do an internship with a clothing company. It wasn't an easy decision, but it was the best decision of my career.
This internship only reaffirmed to me that millinery was my calling, but I was very far from being ready to start a business!
A few months after my internship, a friend of a friend was interested in learning how to make hats as well, and so I started giving him lessons. Braeden and I became good friends and we loved to just hang out, make hats, and talk about hat related stuff. Braeden now has an awesome hat brand named ''Black Tulip Hats''.
I had told him how difficult it was to find hat blocks, and hat blocks are crucial in the hat making process. I felt that I needed to have quite a few before I could even start thinking about starting a company.
Then one day, by pure coincidence, Braeden found out that someone in Toronto was looking to sell over a 100 hat blocks as part of an estate sale. I jumped on it and called the person selling them. This kind of opportunity normally doesn't happen twice, and I didn't want to miss my chance. I don't think I had ever been as excited about something thus far!
I rented a van and Braeden and I did the Montreal-Toronto round trip in a day. The man who sold me the hat blocks told me that his mother had been a nurse throughout her life, and a milliner in her spare time. I saw this as a sign because I had been working as a pharmacy assistant for roughly ten years by this point. He also told me that a production company had offered to pay him about 5 times the price we had negotiated, but that he felt that his mother would much prefer if they went to me. I will forever say this; the stars felt aligned. Braeden and I were so excited about the bounty, we couldn't wait to get back to Montreal and make hats.
Disclosure: We got a photo radar speeding ticket in the mail about 2 weeks later, a testimony to our eagerness to get back to Montreal with the loot!
I purchased all of my hat blocks in April 2015 and launched Heirloom in the following September. Finding those hat blocks was the catalyst that started my millinery journey. I signed up for a class to learn how to build a business plan, while simultaneously creating my very first collection ''The Gray Matter''.