UK Milliner Christopher Garner has the ability to create headwear that is delightfully demure or fantastically whimsical, all of which delight the beholder.
What do you love most about Millinery?
There are so many things that I love most about millinery so this is such a difficult question to answer (laughs out loud). I love the fact we can take something completely flat and then transform it into this 3D object. The trimming of a hat really excited me as I believe that this is where the hats personality really comes through, before the wearer reveals its true personality, and you can really experiment with this. The marriage between nature and human is something that also excites me about millinery as it’s a precious relationship for the art form.
How did you come into Millinery?
My brand Julian Garner was actually realised at the young age of 11 during a social studies class. I was then in awe of the hat that introduced the character Rose, Kate Winslet, to the audience. This hat, designed by Jo Willis, blew me away and my passion for hats really started. As a young boy, dressing up always involved hats. Life unfortunately took over and then one year, 2012, I entered a competition where I was judged by Stephen Jones, Philip Treacy, Paula Reed and the editor of Grazia Magazine. I entered to get feedback as I knew that been self-trained at the time, I didn’t stand a chance. Feedback was more important. The feedback I got was so kind and it cemented my decision to continue it. An opportunity arose where I could focus on my career as a milliner and I jumped at it. 2014 saw me leave my full time job in buying and product development to work part time as a drag artist and then focus on my brand during the week. I am very lucky I get to be creative every day.
How you would describe your designs?
Luxuriously handmade headpieces for the colourful, confident and brave.
What is your ideal customer?
A happy one. I am always so flattered when people ask me to either make them a hat or even just pop by to my studio to try them on. Anyone who wears my hats is a celebrity to me as they are celebrating my dream with me.
What inspires you?
My biggest inspiration is Mother Nature. I also find inspiration in people who have a sense of activism about them. What I mean by that is someone who is an ally, has integrity, aren’t afraid to speak their mind and love adventure.
What an honour to have your headpiece included in Royal Ascot Style Guide this year!
The piece worn in the Official Royal Ascot Style Guide 2020 is called Love Boat and is part of my rainbow inspired mood, PRIDE SS20. The collection was inspired by my LGBTQIA+ community. The symbol of the community has been a rainbow flag since 1978 and continues to inspire and bring hope to all within it. Luckily the piece was called in by the stylist in charge of the shoot and it got chosen. Super lucky.
What has been the largest challenge you have faced in millinery?
The biggest challenge anyone faces within millinery is when you are first starting out. My label, although realised when I was 11, was launched in 2016. My career is super young and like all of us, we are always learning. It’s getting the label to be noticed and watching your client base grow. My market is out there. It is just making sure they know that you exist. Perseverance is a major player in the game of making hats and the moments when you feeling like quitting, trust me I have them, that’s when you keep pushing. A friend once told me, “If McDonalds, KFC, and Burger King can exist on the same street as one another, its proof there is enough for everyone”. You have to find your brands/ labels voice and then when you have it, people will hear it.
If you could invite any milliner to tea who would it be?
Oh goodness this is a hard decision to make. I would have to say it would be a toss-up between, Stephen Jones, Philip Treacy, Rachel Trevor Morgan and Dillon Wallwork.
Stephen jones for his incredible career, “Hello DIOR!” The stories of a time in his career which saw fashion at its, personally, most fun.
Philip Treacy for the stories of fame, the famous and the people he has worked with. Although I am not sure tea in his actual imagination would be welcomed but I would definitely ask...ha ha ha.
Rachel Trevor Morgan for her collaborative career with the Royal Household and her amazing career as a woman in the industry not just of hats but fashion.
Dillon Wallwork, who I have been lucky enough to do a workshop with him which blew my socks off. Doing a class with Dillon will make you want to stop millinery and start all over again, without the bad habits. His ability to make the job so neat and effortless is inspiring. He is also a fountain of knowledge. I wish he would write a book about millinery to be honest. Perhaps we could start during tea. He really is a master of the trade.
What is your favourite material to work with?
I love working with dyes. I feel witchy when boiling or hand painting. In regards to actual material, I don’t often work with it, but, when I do I love the end result of ultimate lightness and that would be “Dior” Netting. Incredibly light and mostimportantly comfortable. Parasisel straws would be the next favourite material, again for the lightness as well as versatility. Fabrics that have an effect on the sustainability of fashion are a favourite to.
What's your best millinery tip?
Always condition your thread, using wax, before working on a hat. Always.
Words to live by ....
Be inspired and always have integrity.
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