Make it British meets master milliner Judy Bentinck to find out how she creates her stunning bespoke headpieces for her clients.
You started out in theatrical costume design for the RSC and BBC, what made you want to design hats?
I’ve always loved hats and when I was thinking of a career change, which was 14 yeas ago now, I saw an advert for one-to-one tuition in Millinery and fell in love with it on my first lesson!
You describe yourself as a ‘traditional couture milliner’ on your website, what does that mean?
‘Traditional Couture’ means that I make everything by hand using very neat small stitches. Haute Couture means High sewing. My teacher was the Queen Mother’s milliner and was very strict about using traditional methods with no short cuts or sloppiness.
Where do you get your inspiration for your hat designs?
My inspiration is all around: nature, architecture, history, art galleries and museums, astrology, travel – the choice is endless…
How important is customer collaboration to you and is it true that no two of your hats are the same?
I like to be sure my clients feel involved with the design process and that their input is important. It isn’t just about putting a hat on and buying it.
At the initial consultation we will discuss the occasion, the outfit they’ll be wearing, the time of year of the event etc. If the hat is a bespoke piece then it is made for that individual and is completely unique to them. Although I also do a small ready-to-wear range as well, mainly to go into shops to be sold, but they will be sold from my website very soon too.
How do you source your materials and why is it important to you that most of your production is ‘made in Britain’?
I have built up a relationship with certain suppliers over the years and I know their sources, philosophy and reliability. All my hats are made in my studio in London and I would never out-source to have them made.
Have you ever made a truly outrageous hat like the sort you sometimes see at Ascot?
The maddest hat I’ve made was of an ice cream. I was commissioned to create a replica of Cadbury’s 99 flake to celebrate 10 years of them being made by Fredericks’ Dairy. The stunt was held at Royal Ascot and was a global success.
Have you ever made a hat for anyone famous, or, who would you love to make a hat for?
The best known celebrity I’ve created a hat for is probably Clare Balding. I made a hat for her when she was commentating and being filmed at Ascot Races.