Handcrafted millinery & headwear, made in Saltaire, just outside of Leeds, West Yorkshire.
Hats include styles that are quirky, retro, vintage inspired, colourful, bold and practical & minimal. They are made for everyday folk and individual commissions, for the theatre world and opera each year and literally anyone who fancies buying a hat to their requirements.
Based in the new Piazza Offices at Salts Mill, the millinery studio isn't open like the rest of the mill, but by appointment only or for special events.
For more info on whats coming up, please check the blog on the homepage or find @jenlevetmillinery on instagram for more pics on recent work and news.
slow fashion - design led - handcrafted
MY FAVE AESTHETICS & INSPIRATION
Mid Century graphics & bold typography and movements such as Bauhaus.
Sculpture & 3D shapes & how they balance each other out, such as new cap shapes and moulding and shaping wire for hat trim and bending wire shapes to make new hat shapes.
Playing with colour palettes and hues that contrast and contradict & compliment and enhance each other.
INFLUENCES & PRINCIPLES
It still baffles me that sometimes millinery is seen as separate from the craft world and either lives in the high end fashion world or hats are made in factories with fast fashion pricing. There isn't really a middle ground, sure this is due to technology changing and just how it's fallen due to the time consuming techniques. But it should be more accessible than it has been. We all have heads and it should be accessible for us all to wear millinery, it shouldn't be associated with only fancy attire and it should be more sustainable too.
IS MILLINERY A CRAFT THOUGH?
Of course it is! The definition of a craft varies depending on the source, but in general it is about something being made by hand, using skills & techniques and everything that the experience of using those techniques teaches you.
Traditional millinery involves moulding materials and trimming them to make a finished piece and there are NUMEROUS other techniques involved. Most have been practised for centuries & many involve hand stitching and laborious techniques & they've all been passed down and taught to & shared between other milliners.
So why is it not seen as one, as much as other crafts & trades?
How many people wear hats has changed over the years, so it’s not as seen as much as other contemporary crafts anymore. Once upon a time almost everyone wore a hat each day. Not to mention other factors that have changed the industry, such as technology and manufacturing, making fast fashion cheaper & more appealing. If hats can be machine blocked over hand-blocked then for a big fashion brand that's obviously going to bring costs down.
(Pic credit to Margaret Bourke-White in 1930) more info here:
And then lastly, identity and self expression means fashion itself has changed. We do not need to all wear the same thing each day just because society dictates it. It’s also a little down to familiarity too, like wearing your favourite ring everyday and then not. Once something becomes abnormal, it can be odd to try out. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever find the one that works..
Hats are essentially now statement pieces, so they can be a bit daunting if you don’t normally wear one each day. Where do you start for example? And well there are bigger problems in the world. And hats aren’t for everyone! BUT the number of people I have spoken to who say “I love hats, can’t wear them, just don't suit them” is pretty high. Genuinely had sooo many people say this to me.
YOU DO YOU
My personal opinion is that how we view ourselves and our style speaks volumes about how comfortable someone feels when trying a new hat on. Should go without saying, that applies to all items of clothing and what we choose to wear. That’s all down to personal style and finding one that YOU feel suits YOU and your preference in fabrics, style, shape. Also who you have become from your own life experiences and what reflects your personal choices and character.
*Disclaimer: There are lots of face shape rules that sometimes get spoken about in the millinery world, such as if you have a triangular face or an oval face you should wear this shape or that shape, it suits you more. Controversially to the millinery world, sos babe, I'm sort of against these! It is so much more important to wear what makes you comfortable & well there's enough critics out there and things making us insecure about what we wear!
How often do you think "oh so and so has a triangular face or a round face they well shouldn't be wearing that with that shaped face??" No really? Does anyone?
Sidenote triangles and circles are cool though, just not as face shapes. Patterns and designs yes. Face shapes no.
each to their own - write your own rules
Bespoke hats are completely made to fit your requirements, so we can discuss options endlessly, and trying new things out, but it's really important that you leave with a hat YOU like overall. Individuality and personal taste is constantly respected.
Custom colours & playing with alternative colour combos encouraged.
Especially if it is mad and unique and reflects YOU more.
ABOUT ME & MY BACKGROUND
My experience is costume and historical fashion & making multiple different types of headwear, from different time periods. So using buckram, straw, sinamay, felt, flat pattern cutting, costume making and altering, organising and laundering costumes as well as working as many jobs as I can on the side each month to pay bills whilst living in London, not necessarily related to each other..
I've worked as Theatrical Milliner for the Welsh National Opera, have assisted for one wee week at the National Theatre (as well as in running wardrobe there), made hats for Spectrum Costume Hire, Madame Tussauds, Grange Park Opera and assisted other milliners such as Jane Smith (including for multiple films and theatres) Piers Atkinson, Nerida Fraiman, Jane Taylor and randomly once made caps for Eric Cantona.
My weird and wonderful extra jobs have also included puppet stitcher, trade counter assistant at a prop and scenic paint specialist, wardrobe mistress, barista, dresser & costume tech on a cruise ship.
I swear the weirdest day was when I went from a morning of cutting 20 metres of heavy duty chain for a customer for the shop fittings for their new shop (just a normal fashion one!) at the theatrical chandlers I worked at, to going to my millinery studio in the afternoon to hand stitch the lace on the edge of a bridal veil for a customer!? Literally on the same day? Most unusual contrast ever. There's been some weird gigs & no normal days.. But that's quite a typical tale for most creatives working freelance!