How I became a milliner

Heirloom hats, How I become a hat maker / 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''.  

 

 

 

 

Read more

Wearing more than one hat, hat idioms and their meaning, hat's off to you, heirloom hats

Hat idioms and their meaning

Butterfly hair clips, 3D printed, Heirloom Hats, Butterfly hair accessories

Our collaboration with Gament designs for the Mariposa collection

Wearing more than one hat, hat idioms and their meaning, hat's off to you, heirloom hats

Hat idioms and their meaning

Comments

Be the first to comment.