A career as a hat maker

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"What is a hat maker called?" is a common question.

The answer is a Milliner.

The tips4jobs team.

Jane Park's hats have appeared on some very famous heads – anyone from pop musicians to TV stars. She works from home or out of her gallery, where more than 100 hats are on display.

How long does it take to create a hat?

An elaborate leather hat could take me up to a month, but I can finish my bowler hats in three days now – you do get faster with practice. I might work night and day on a hat sculpture, but probably complete a routine wedding hat in a day.

Where do you work?

Mainly from home. I also take appointments on Tuesdays and Saturdays at my gallery where I have a great variety of sculpted hats on show. I normally work a 9am to 4pm day, but this can change depending on the urgency of the commission, for instance.

How do you make a hat?

You start with a wooden block and steam felt or sinnamay – a banana fibre – on to it to give you the basic shape. You then have to use special chemicals to make the hat solid. They can be quite dangerous, so I wear a gas mask and keep all the windows open. After this stage, I cut and sculpt the hat with wire.

What about decoration?

All my hats are handstitched and I use silk on the edges. I use all kinds of trimmings, including unusual beads and buckles. I line the inside of the hat too.

How do you get your commissions?

I have targeted musicians to wear my hats as the clothes they wear influence a lot of their fans. I have a website and I have showed my hats in London at an event which attracted almost 1,000 people.

How do you come up with a design?

I am always looking at people in the street and imagining what kind of hat would suit their face and character. I also look at fashion collections and imagine the hats that would fit with them. If a client asks me to design for them, I think about what shape would suit their face, height and build and we then discuss colours.

What skills do you need?

A real eye for beauty, patience and an ability to imagine what will suit the person you are designing for.

Jane's route to becoming a hat maker

  • Lifelong interest in fashion.
  • HNC in millinery, studying one day a week for four years.
  • Set up her own business.

Jane's hat maker tips

  • Always use the finest materials.
  • Create as much publicity as you can to get your name remembered.

Hat maker / milliner jobs

  • Clothing pattern cutter/grader
  • Clothing sewing machinist
  • Costume designer
  • Textile designer
  • Fashion model
  • Makeup artist
  • Photographic stylist
  • Footwear designer

Salary of a milliner

  • Starting salaries can range from £8,000 to £15,000, with experienced milliners earning up to £55,000.
  • As a freelance or designer running your own business, your income will depend on how much demand there is for your designs.
  • You have to take the cost of materials and marketing into account.

Becoming a hat maker

  • Most fashion and accessory designers start on a Foundation course and then take a relevant HND or degree.
  • Designers may also take craft-based City & Guilds or HNC courses.
  • Entry is usually based on a portfolio of work.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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