A HAT maker who has produced headwear for the likes of world famous designer Bruce Oldfield and regularly featured in magazines like Vogue is displaying some of the work in St Leonards.
Caroline Morris runs a workshop in Mercatoria in St Leonards and has years of very special experience in the fashion industry.
Speaking recently at the Ladies Lunch club held in the Princes Room at The Grand hotel in Eastbourne, Caroline described her journey through millinery, from fashion graduate at London’s prestigious Central St Martin’s School of Art and Design, to becoming a high-end hat designer for the couture houses of London.
Her journey has become about more than just designing an occasion hat. Caroline has discovered a vocation, an art.
Her own introduction to millinery started with a hat box, while working as an assistant at a French boutique in Mayfair, London. Describing one of her first days in the boutique, one memorable encounter prevails: “A tall glamorous woman came in to our shop, carrying these huge hat boxes,“ said Caroline. “The owner of the boutique was quite intimidating and the beautiful woman, who was dressed in chic all-black and made up to perfection, asked if she could show us her hats, in the hope that we might sell them.
“As we started to turn our backs, she pulled one of her creations out of the box. The owner of the boutique was not interested, and was about to ask her to leave when a group of American tourists noticed her hat boxes and crowded around her admiring the hats.
“That day we sold five of her hats and I later found out that she was the famous milliner Eda Rose.”
Alongside her career as a successful boutique fashion buyer attending shows in Paris and London, Caroline decided to investigate the art of hat-making further and attended a course at the Kensington and Chelsea College. Her tutor there, impressed with her work and dedication, asked her later on to assist and a career in millinery was born.
She launched her own label in 1996, Caroline Morris Millinery. A very exciting time followed, starting with her work being ‘discovered’ by international buyers at the Chelsea Craft Fair.
“I was invited to meet with the head buyer of Barneys department store in New York at a hotel near Sloan Square and left them with samples of my work to decide on.
“Next thing I knew, I was supplying my hats wholesale to department stores all over the world, including America and Japan.
“It was a whole other world of export and bulk orders that I never knew I could cope with.”
Caroline has since gone on to create collections for international designers such as Jacques Azagury, Bruce Oldfield and Tomasz Starzewski and her hats photographed by Wedding and Hat magazines, as well as in Vogue, Italian Vogue and the Sunday Times.
But throughout a very successful career as a designer milliner, Caroline’s dedication to teaching has never waned. During the Year of the Artist 2000-2001, Caroline was awarded a residency at the heart of the millinery world, Luton’s Wardown Park Museum.
While there she was able to research their archives, while teaching millinery to residents in nursing homes and day care centres in the area, culminating in an exhibition of in the museum.
She was also appointed artist in residence at Kensington Palace in 2004. She ran school workshops at the Palace, which culminated in a fashion show in the Orangery.
Caroline moved from London to St Leonards in 2012 and continues her millinery teaching at Sussex Coast college and from her studio. She is a regular instructor in millinery at the Sackler Centre at the Victoria & Albert Museum as well as teaching workshops at the Wallace Collection in London.
“It is the sculptural potential of hats that interests me,” she added. “The way that you can take a simple fabric and twist it, turn it, mould it and decorate it to create something unique and creative is fabulous. If you are interested in learning the art of millinery, Caroline teaches private classes from her studio in St Leonard’s. For more information and for hat commissions for weddings, Ascot and other events, contact Caroline at www.carolinemorrismillinery.com.
A collection of Caroline’s most famous hats are on show in a permanent exhibition space at 20 King’s Road in St Leonards, starting on the 26