Elisabeth Koch chats about pursuing a millinery business in China and the challenges involved.
What do you love most about Millinery?
How visible this art form is.
How did you get into Millinery?
I always loved making things from as far back as I can remember. Clothes, furniture, houses for my Barbie dolls, to a skirt made from an old umbrella or cutting up a stained but beautiful silk tie of my father's to create brooches. In the mean time I collected (and wore) vintage hats. When I finally documented them, I had around 100. I would come home after work and draw, sew and basically make all the ideas that popped into my head. I had to make something with my hands and see the fruits of my labour. Finally I took the plunge, quit my job in Brussels and went to the Wombourne School of Millinery in the UK. I moved to Beijing in 2007 and set up Elisabeth Koch Millinery.
How you would describe your designs?
What is your ideal customer?
Someone who loves hats and isn't shy to rock that piece to an event!
What inspires you?
Everything around me! From nature, to the Beijing skyline to the Georgia mountains, beautiful plates of food, my children, supermarkets... I just never know when a new idea will hit me!
What has been the largest challenge you face in millinery?
Language barrier! I've only ever been a milliner in China. Now, my Chinese is okay after 12 years, but I still need help. The fact that I'm in China, also means a lot of technology is not accessible to me. These are all banned on Mainland China: Instagram, WhatsApp, FaceBook, YouTube, BBC News, Twitter, Skype, Netflix, Tumblr to name a few... can you imagine!?
If you could invite any milliner to tea who would it be?
Stephen Jones! I just love his designs and would love to talk to him about his process as well as the business side of being a milliner. There are no other milliners in China with whom I can discuss anything, so I'm full of questions!
What is your favourite material to work with?
Usually the non-traditional materials, such as wood, plastics and metals. I like to see what I can do with them. There isn't anything close to a millinery-supply shop in China, so I am really forced to think out of the box.
What's your best millinery tip?
Try to use materials that you won't find in a millinery supply shop!
Words to live by.
Everything is in divine and perfect harmony right now.
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