Before starting the Hatwoman boutique, in Central, you worked as a lawyer for many years. How did the shift in career come about? “My transition from lawyer to starting Hatwoman wasn’t immediate or direct. After leaving my job, there was a period in between where I was the wife of a diplomat. During that time, I lived in Paris, Beijing and Hong Kong.
“Originally, my interest was in furniture. Furniture, however, is not very practical from a business perspective since pieces are huge and can cost so much. Hats on the other hand are much smaller. Millinery is also a fringe area of fashion, because most aspects of fashion are split between those who design and those who make. In fact, most fashion designers don’t make their own clothes, whereas practically all milliners make their own hats. So part of me enjoys this dialogue when you are commissioning or buying something from a designer who is also a maker. Eventually, when I started becoming really interested in wearing hats, I just couldn’t find anywhere to buy them. That was when I came up with the idea of starting my own hat shop.”
What was the first hat you fell in love with? “Hats have not been a lifelong passion of mine – it only started 10 years ago. The first one I fell in love with was in 2006 and by Yasmin Rizvi, who I met at a craft fair in London. The piece was a peacock feather helmet, which I thought was such a beautiful and exciting creation. When I eventually opened Hatwoman [in 2010], I ordered another one of these helmets from her. While it never suited me, I did think it was fabulous.”
Describe your clientele. “Our clientele includes celebrities looking for headwear to perform or to be seen in, hat lovers who buy hats every season, people who are looking for hats for a special occasion, those who want headwear professionally, such as stylists, and those who buy hats for a practical reason. That said, I think we now have more male customers than we used to. At the beginning, we had men who were flamboyant and did not feel constricted to wearing only men’s hats. But the majority of men are conservative, and we are getting more of those kinds of customers.”
Do you have a style icon? “I don’t have a particular person in mind – usually it’s someone on the street or a friend who wears something that catches my eye. For instance, last week I saw this man who was wearing a pale yellow turban with a matching shirt and grass-green trousers. I wanted to rush up to him and tell him, ‘I love what you’re wearing.’ I didn’t, because I imagine he would get quite upset.”