By Diana Cavagnaro
London Hat Week featured The Great Hat Exhibition from April 2 to April 12. The theme was “World Garden,” featuring 200 hats from around the world. I was honored to have three of my hats chosen to be in the exhibition. I invited Dame Zandra Rhodes to attend the private viewing party on April 2 at the Menier Gallery in London. We arrived at the gallery filled with floral hats in every room. The milliners were inspired by beautiful landscapes using flowers and plants to create a visionary delight. The evening gave me the chance to meet talented milliners from around the world. One of my students Christina Shultz had two hats in the exhibit. Monique Lee Millinery curated this exciting exhibition. Co-founders were Georgina Abbot from Atelier Millinery and Becky Weaver from HATalk Magazine.
For my visit in London, I stayed with Zandra Rhodes and had a tour of her design room, workroom and the screen-printing room where all the work is created. I was very excited to visit her Fashion & Textile Museum while I was there. The current exhibit focuses on the talented Mary Quant, who was a major influencer in the ’60s. London Hat Week had over 90 hat-related events that took place during this special time. Classes were ongoing with milliners from around the world. I enjoyed taking a course on couture trim from Vlad Straticiu,who hails from Spain, and then a fun class on metal hair vines from Denise Innes-Spencer, who is the creative director of the British School of Millinery. Spencer was also the tour guide for a day trip to Luton where the hat trade began. We were able to tour the Victorian Hat Factory and then had a bus ride around Luton to buy millinery supplies. I also attended another wonderful master class with the Irish milliner Lina Stein, who taught us how to create elegant headpieces with floating leaves.
I took a special class with couture London-based milliner Dillon Wallwork, who trained under Philip Somerville (known for making hats worn by the Queen). My class was on sparterie (rare Japanese-made blocking fabric which contains paper and muslin constituents) — a product that was not available in the U.S. — so I jumped at the chance to work with Dillon. The following day, I had a private lesson with him. I made a Jackie Kennedy pillbox from a gorgeous silk dupioni fabric using sparterie for the foundation. This was a fabulous experience.
One of my favorite activities was volunteering as an ambassador for the Supplier Fair at Guy’s Hospital Atriums. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to meet and greet more milliners from around the world. One of the fair’s headliners was master hat block maker Owen Morse-Brown, who gave a talk about the tools of the trade for men’s hatting. During this time, there was a book signing of the book, “My World According to Me,” by couture milliner Ian Bennett. I visited a special exhibit by students at the Morley College Millinery Team and then was off to see a John Boyd millinery retrospective. Boyd was a milliner who made hats for Princess Anne and the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Visiting his shop was a special treat.
One of my friends from San Diego joined me at the end of my adventure in London and we had a wonderful time checking out the latest fashions in stores like Harrods’s and Liberty of London. We couldn’t leave London without seeing the extraordinary Dior Exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum. This incredible exhibit is a must-see if you are visiting London. My trip to the U.K. was a great opportunity to meet the London Hat Week team and other milliners from around the globe. My goal in the future is to host some of these milliners here in San Diego to give San Diegans the opportunity to learn millinery. Stay tuned!
— Diana Cavagnaro is an internationally renowned Couture Milliner based in the Historic Gaslamp Quarter. Learn more about our hat designer, teacher and blogger at DianaCavagnaro.com