Got it covered: Drop of a Hat leading the resurgence of hat-wearing

Humans have covered their heads from time immemorial. Whether it was to protect themselves from the elements or as a symbol of status, there was a time it was unfathomable to be seen without a hat. The modern age may have dethroned the hat from the essential article of clothing pedestal it once held, but they continue to be worn by both sexes for fashion and for function. More so with the current crop of royals capturing the media’s imagination. That being said, hats aren’t reserved for just the mother of the bride or the Queen. In fact, Chloe Mitchell launched Drop of a Hat in 2014 with a mission to grow the hat-wearing culture in Kenya. TDS finds out a little more about the genius behind these modern day crowns.

[Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
[Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Drop of a hat… not just an idiom is it?

I wanted to name my business something that was catchy and that could be remembered easily. I had considered something with the word millinery in it however not many people knew what millinery was. My parents and I sat down one evening and started pulling our phrases with the word ‘hat’ in it. We came up with about 7 phrases that we sent out on email to close family and friends and had them vote on what they thought would be the most catchy and best name, thus ‘Drop of a Hat’ was born.

Why hats? Has it always been what you wanted to do?

When I was younger, I had always dreamed about being a photographer. I had taken part in exhibitions and studied under some of the top photographers here in Kenya, learning how to use film all the way up to modern day digital SLR cameras. At school, I received the “Photographer of the Year” award along with my top grades being in photography. However, after a bad experience that broke my confidence immensely in photography I put my camera down and concentrated more on my art.

Each hat has its own name to create uniqueness and individuality. We came up with the idea as all the hats are one offs and it’s a great way to distinguish an individual piece.

My final year at school I was in the Advanced Placement Art Class where you choose a theme and create a number of art pieces that get judged by a college board in the United States; my theme was taking recyclable material and turning it into clothing. Through this my mother saw a talent in me for design and creation and suggested I do a course in making hats to see if it would be something I would enjoy (University and sitting in a class room was not something that appealed to me.) My mother had always said to me when I was little “[w]hen you grow up you should make hats like your Great Aunt Dora.” I ventured out after graduating from Rosslyn Academy in 2013 and begun my journey in hat making. I felt a great passion for it!

[Image: MGPhotoStudio - Masha Grosman Kenya Photography]
[Image: MGPhotoStudio – Masha Grosman Kenya Photography]
Where did you learn the skills necessary to create these pieces?

I started my training with Rose Cory who taught me the basic techniques. I then went on to extend my experience with Louise Pocock who was much more modern in her techniques. Her use of colour, art, uniqueness and care to me as a student and willingness to help me is where I fell head over heels in love with millinery.

Wasn’t Rose Cory the appointed millinery of the late Queen Elizabeth … Must have been a surreal experience.

Yes! It was incredible to learn from Rose Cory as she has a wealth of hat making techniques, knowledge and stories. She was a delight to study under!

Marguarite Leather [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Marguarite Leather [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Marguarite Royal Fantasy [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Marguarite Royal Fantasy [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
So is Drop of a Hat a one woman operation? And is it just custom creations?

I do majority of the work, however I do have two ladies who I am training in some of the aspects of millinery. [Actually] I make ready to wear and this is where the majority of sales are made. However, I do take custom orders and create a hat or headpiece to a client’s specifications. This allows for a client to have a hat that portrays their character, and is unique and personal.

Interesting touch to have each hat with its own name… what is the inspiration behind this?

Each hat has its own name to create uniqueness and individuality. We came up with the idea as all the hats are one offs and it’s a great way to distinguish an individual piece.

The fascinators and cocktail hats are all named after cocktails that relate to their character and design, whereas the safari hats, fedoras, trilbies, sun hats etc. are all named with a main name that distinguishes the shape and then we add on a character to make it individual. If a client comes to us and has a custom order, we then name it after that client. For example, our Cloche shape is called Daisy which is in relation to ‘The Great Gatsby.” If a client, let’s call her “Jennifer,” wants a cloche in a wine colour, we would call that Jennifer Daisy Wine or something to that effect.

Tamu [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Tamu [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
You’ve managed to create accessories that really stand out from the crowd. How do you keep creating such eye-captivating collections?

My inspiration generally comes from the environment around me. For example, my ‘Royally Iridescent’ collection came from the stunning colours of a peacock and its natural beauty, thus everything in the collection resembled that. Another was our ‘Kenyan Collection’ which was to draw Kenyan textiles into a couture line of hats and headwear that hadn’t been seen here before. Our ‘I Do’ collection, for which I won an award for from Samantha’s Bridal, is aimed to create individuality and uniqueness for a bride on her special day bringing in a ‘modern meets vintage’ style.

A headpiece can make or break an outfit and make it look sophisticated and classy or can make it look generic so with us you can be sure to be unique.

With the uniqueness being a strong trademark for the brand, how often can you put out new collections?

I try to create a new collection whenever I have inspiration.  I stray from the normal fall/winter, spring/summer collection idea and do whatever I want at the time. I try and incorporate at least 12 to 15 pieces in a collection or it can be continual.

Bugsy Malone Red [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Bugsy Malone Red [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Bugsy Malone [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Bugsy Malone [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Something this aesthetical must require a lot more care than the average baseball hat…

As these hats are handmade, they do require more care then factory made pieces. They should not be handled roughly as I see so many doing with their hats. They should be stored carefully away from water and dust. If however a hat does pick up dust you can brush it with a soft clothes brush and a safari hat should be stored on its crown. If a hat is looked after, there will be no problem. More information for care can be found on my website.

A headpiece can make or break an outfit and make it look sophisticated and classy or can make it look generic so with us you can be sure to be unique.

Speaking of website, we’ve seen you hinting at a new collection… what is in the works?

All I can say at this time is that it is an extension of my wildlife conservation collection and the range will be determined for each hat as it is finished. If anyone wants to keep in the loop for more hints they can follow us on social media!

Out of Africa Collection - Gacia [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Out of Africa Collection – Gacia [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
In general, what is the price range at Drop of a hat? And has it been a challenge to gain a customer base in Kenya?

The general range is from 3,000 Kenya shillings to 30,000 shillings with a few exceptions. [Concerning customer base] Yes and No. I have been lucky to adopt clients in the expat community as they are more familiar with the culture of hats due to attending Race’s like the Derby along with the Royal Family creating a trend. My ongoing struggle is trying to convince our local market about the craftsmanship, uniqueness and quality as they see the factory, mass produced items on the sides of roads and in shops and don’t realise why there is a difference in price.

Everything on a hat or headpiece in the collection has a symbolic representation from the colour to the design, no detail is left to chance.

It appears your brand also has a link to conservation… why is this so important to your brand?

We have a wildlife conservation/anti-poaching collection, and our aim through this is to help create awareness and spread a message through hats in a way that hasn’t been done before- to my knowledge. Everything on a hat or headpiece in the collection has a symbolic representation from the colour to the design, no detail is left to chance. To help achieve our message and vision we also give a percentage of the proceeds from each sale from this collection towards helping the Elephants at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Out of Africa Robin Hood [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Out of Africa Robin Hood [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Out of Africa Top Hat [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Out of Africa Top Hat [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Out of Africa Redford [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Out of Africa Redford [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Out of Africa Tuscany [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
Out of Africa Tuscany [Image: Courtesy of Drop of a Hat]
What pieces would you recommend; especially for a hat-newbie?

So far our safari hats, trilbies, fedoras and sun hats are our biggest moving products.

 

In the words of Jeanine Larmoth, “A hat is a shameless flatterer, calling attention to an escaping curl, a tawny braid, a sprinkling of freckles over a pert nose, directing the eye to what is most unique about a face. Its curve emphasize a shining pair of eyes… suggests a mystery that awakens curiosity in the onlooker.” Be it for your next polo match, wedding or because any day is a good day to wear a hat, find that unique creation at:

chloe@dropofahat.biz | +254 716 885 584 | www.dropofahat.me | Facebook | Instagram

 

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