Interview │Carolyn Unwin ‘Wear-A-Hat’

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Carolyn Unwin wearing Sirocco luxury straw hat from her collection (now available online)

Carolyn Unwin wearing Sirocco luxury straw hat from her collection (now available online)

Hello my lovelies!

I have known Carolyn Unwin, the amazing hat genius for quite a while now and recently approached her for this interview that I thought you might very much enjoy reading as you will going through her hat collection. She is very original and creative, and such a wonderful person to talk to.

This is an online interview that I got to pinch out of her busy schedule (Yayy for me!). So…let’s start!

Apoorva: Why hats? What made you choose this?

Carolyn Unwin: Many moons ago, I was living in London and working in a hospital in a job that I found very tough.  My working life consisted of a constant parade of people who had experienced terrible traumatic accidents or were suffering from terminal diseases.  They were usually in various stages of deterioration and dying.  Looking back now I realize that I was in a fairly unrelenting state of trauma being exposed to this day in and day out.  I was trying to help these people and I felt constantly like I wasn’t doing a very good job.  While I know that there were are some people who thrive in such situations, I discovered that I was not one of them!

To escape my real world situation, I would spend my weekends poring over the fashion departments of the great London department stores like Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges & my favorite – Liberty.  In particular, I loved the fashion accessory departments.  The shoes were great, the bags were great, all the amazing hair accessories and wonderful costume jewelry displays – I loved them all.  But my favorite little spots were the hat departments and it was here that I discovered the instant and truly transformational power of the best fashion accessory in the world – a great hat. pretty big head (!) and that absolutely none of the commercial available standard hats would fit me.  I could jam them on my head, but they were not comfortable!! So I thought I had better have a go at making some myself.  I found a weekend course on hat-making at the Central Saint Martin’s School of Art & Design in London.  I enrolled and finally found something I was good at and loved to do.

AP: You make such amazing hats, where do you get your inspiration from?

CU: A good hat is like a sculpture for the face – it should frame and emphasize your face and from every angle, even the back, it should enhance you.  People will look at you and notice you a whole lot more!  And you will notice that happening. With this as my starting point, inspiration comes all day and every day; while I’m awake and while I sleep.

I love the organic shapes of nature and the hard clean lines of modern architecture and design.  It’s probably also pretty obvious to someone who knows my hats, that I am in love with color.  I love the restraint and discipline of working with neutral color palettes and often combine texture in with this to bring an added element of interest.  But in an inescapable sign that I am originally a girl from the tropics, I really love a big splash of amazing eye-popping color.

@thatweirdgirlofficial

AP: How much does a customer appreciation/criticism mean to you?

CU: It means a lot – almost everything.  Many people say flattering things, but actions speak louder than words.  The ultimate appreciation to me, is when someone shows that they love my work enough to actually buy and wear a hat that I have designed or made.

For my bespoke clients, I always feel a strong sense of responsibility.  I recognize that they have come to me wanting something special, hand-made with attention to detail and usually a one-of-a-kind design.  While I want these clients to tell me what they want, I always ask that they do not over-specify but leave some of the technical and final design decisions to me.  It always leads to a better, more flowing and more beautiful result.

I have also received great experience and appreciation through working with stylists from the major television network that broadcasts the horse racing in Australia.  These stylists need to put together many outfits for their reporters and celebrities, keeping everyone beautiful yet unique and often doing so with very tight deadlines.  I have really developed my ability to be prepared for the demand and tight deadlines that you know will come, work quickly and yet maintain the quality, originality and beauty of the final hat or headpiece.

AP: Are these all seasonal hats, or for a particular one?

CU: I make couture race-wear hats for the two main horse racing seasons in Australia – the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne and the Autumn Racing Carnival in Sydney.  These hats and headpieces tend to feature fine straws, felts and often feathers in fairly flamboyant designs.  I sell these hats through a number of specialist boutiques that also stock international ladies fashion brands in Sydney and Melbourne.

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I have also started a ready-to-wear summer hats range, launched earlier this year and featuring hand-woven straws that I customize and hand-finish with different headbands.  I am thrilled to launch this range and really love each of these designs.  The hats are named after different winds of the world, reflecting the Australian love of travel and adventure.  They are fairly classic in their silhouette; comfortable and functional for everyday life. I sell these hats through my online store and a number of home and lifestyle stores throughout the eastern states of Australia.

AP: What are you currently working on?

CU: I am about to start work on designing my ready-to-wear range for next spring and summer (SS 15/16), make two special hats for an upcoming photo-shoot collaboration with a NZ-based lingerie label and make some winter hats for March (even though it always feels strange working with felt in hot summer weather like we have in Australia now).

AP: What are your winter essentials? (makeup products, clothes, shoes, food, etc)

CU: My winter essentials are:-

  • 2 must-have styles of hats – i) a great chunky knitted beanie that you can pull down low over your ears and ii) a floppy 70’s style felt fedora either with a domed or fedora crown.  They suit everyone and add a level of drama to any winter outfit;
  • a great heavy moisturizer as my face always feels kind of crackly when the colder weather strikes.  I quite like the American brand Sircuit and their Cloud 9 cream;
  • Redken volumiser spray – gives a bit of body to my dead-straight hair!:
  • good thick and cozy socks that I can wear around the house and late at night as slippers when I am up making hats (not very glamorous, but who can do anything when you are cold?);
  • knee or thigh-high leather boots that look great over skinny jeans – but with flat heels so I can still walk without feeling constrained;
  • long skinny pashmina style scarves in muted colors that I can knot around my neck (another area where I tend to feel the cold);
  • a really good heavy wool coat – I currently have a really great aubergine Milly double-breasted pea-coat from New York that I have been wearing for about three years now.  It has a very high Napoleonic style collar and big gold buttons and I absolutely love it.  It’s starting to show the signs of wear and wish I could buy another exactly the same.  It doesn’t often get cold enough to wear it here in Sydney though – it’s more of a winter travel coat;
  • and my running kit so that I don’t blimp out too much from all those winter curries that I love – old Brooks runners that are still going strong, Lulu Lemon outfit and cap to keep any rain out of my eyes.

AP: How excited are you for New Year? What is on your wishlist?

CU: I don’t tend to like milestones very much, so for me New Year is another reminder that time is skipping by and there is so much more that I want to do and get through every day, week, month and year.  However, having said that, I am really looking forward to 2015!

The number one item on any wishlist, is that I am lucky enough to enjoy continued good health.  I have had friends within the last year who have experienced some terrible health issues, and I am grateful for the ability to push myself and my business so that we both grow and enjoy the year.

AP: If you were to visit one country right at this moment with those wonderful hats, which one would it be?

CU: Tough question – very tough! If it was to be with my hats, then I would probably say south of France, Shanghai or New York – to take my race-wear hats there and find some wonderful stockists would be a dream.  But then if it was not hat related, then I think it would be glorious to explore India.

AP: What is your motto in life?

CU: I don’t think I had a motto in life until very recently.  If I do have a motto, I guess it has been developed through the process of trying to make beautiful products, market them, build a viable business yet still get some sleep.  Sometimes that is a tough and lonely process!  So for now, I would say it is – “Just keep going.”  I think that may be what makes the difference between those who ultimately achieve their goals in life and those who don’t quite get there. Just keep going!!

I hope you enjoyed this interview, you can check Carolyn’s website if you wish to order a hat or follow her in instagram for some really cool posts on your feed list!

@thatweirdgirlofficial

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