Behind The Hat: Laura Del Villaggio

Millinery Competitions with a theme can prove to be a challenge and restrictive, but that is what brings out the best of our ability in design and technique. Congrats to US Milliner Laura Del Villaggio who proved she could achieve a great outcome for the recent HATalk International Competition, placing second amongst 146 entries.
Photography: Peter Tung

The title for competition entries was "Equilibrium: a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced." How did your style concept display this theme?
The inspiration for my competition entry was an ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail. The ouroboros is an ancient symbol, first appearing in Egypt and often associated with magical alchemy. It means “all is one.” The ouroboros represents the duality of existence – birth and death, good and evil, day and night – and the eternal balance of universal forces.

How did you develop your idea? 
I did research on different symbols and concepts associated with equilibrium. Once I decided on an ourobros, I knew exactly how I wanted to execute the design. 

How many feathers were used?
I cut and sorted 700 feathers. I think about 675 made it on to the hat. The feather process took about 16 hours. The headpiece, start to finish, about 35 hrs.

What was used as the foundation?
I used Japanese sparterie for the foundation. I used it because I had never worked with it before and wanted to try an alternative to buckram.

What were the challenges blocking this piece?
I blocked the sparterie foundation on a vintage ring block. I fell in love with ring block headpieces after seeing Australian milliner Rose Hudson wearing one of her creations at Millinery Meet Up in Tennessee in 2016.

Working with the sparterie was challenging but I learned a lot about it during the process. For example, I originally blocked one layer (spiraled) but it was too soft so I re-blocked the whole piece working with two layers of sparterie for strength.

What did you enjoy the most about creating this piece?
I enjoyed creating an original headpiece that fit the competition theme but was also inspired by my love for Victorian snake-themed jewelry and peacock-feathered accessories. I make modern hats but they always have a bit of a nod to the past, either in form (vintage hat blocks) or in the trim details.

» More from Laura Del Villaggio

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