It has been said that handmade couture millinery is a dying art. Imagine, what fashion icons Coco Chanel and Halston would say to that? Millinery was the first craft for both these brilliant designers. In the 1960s, Halston was the creator of Jackie Kennedy’s famous pillbox hat.
Now considered an endangered craft, a custom-made hat you buy today may well become a collector’s item.
At AGWA Design Store we love supporting local artisans, and we are delighted to welcome Margaret River milliner, Kimberley Box to our Design Store family. Kimberley is a self-taught hat maker who uses all the traditional methods of steaming, blocking and hand-shaping fur felt. Her brand Van Box Head launches instore today.
We interviewed Kimberley to learn more about these wearable works of art.
How did Van Box Head get started? I was travelling in New York and purchased a hat and then became slightly obsessed with finding more awesome hats to wear. During that time, I came across the designer Nick Fouquet and from that point on, I was fascinated to learn the craft of hat making.
How did you come up with that name? I happen to have a fun Surname “Box” (it lends itself to an array of jokes but also seemed perfect to brand) so that had to make an appearance in the name somewhere. While travelling in Canada, I dreamed of slinging hats out of a beautiful baby blue van, so that is where the “Van” came from and then “Head” well…because hats go on your head!
In your opinion, what makes your hats special? I think my hats are truly an extension of my own personal style and influences. Tell me about the Japanese “boro” process of using spare scraps of fabric? I recently came across a Japanese word called “boro”, which is the repairing and mending of fabrics to give them a longer life or a different purpose. It is derived from the word “boroboro” which means something tattered or repaired. I am always trying to source sustainable, ethically made materials or use deadstock fabrics. Some of these textiles can date back to the 1900s and are most likely handmade or hand loomed. It is becoming more accessible to find sustainably produced fabrics as they are certain companies pushing the envelope for this to become standard practice.
How long does it take you to craft a piece? Each hat takes approximately 5 hours. This is dependent on the felt itself and how much it must be stretched. Every felt can behave differently, some are stubborn, some are not! The whole process involves steaming, drying, pouncing (sanding the hat back until its silky smooth). For custom orders, I am sometimes sourcing specific fabrics or embellishments, so these processes also add to the time frame for creating a full custom design.
Tell us more about what inspires you? I think architecture and interior play a role in where I find my inspiration – I love buildings inside and out – as well as all the fine details of fabrics and furnishings. I’m also definitely inspired by tailored dressing from Ralph Lauren, women in men’s suits and beautiful textural tweed fabrics. I was a horse rider as a child and sometimes I see equestrian style influences peeping through in my designs – such as the flat top Spanish style riding hat with chain. Travelling is also a large part of finding inspiration – there is so much to see in this world and so many countries that have incredible artisanal skills from looming fabrics to carpentry and construction details, such as the tiles of Portugal and ornate stucco detailing in Morocco.
What’s your dream for the label? VOGUE. Dream big baby.
How do you feel about being stocked at the AGWA Design Store? I am super excited to be stocked in the AGWA design store alongside such a wide variety of designers both local, national, and international. I think it’s the perfect place for a hat to sit as like lots of fashion, they really are wearable artwork.