A unique creation
In order to create a bespoke headpiece Louise personally works directly with the client. This will involve a series of consultations, at critical stages, in our boutique. It is truly a creative collaboration between Louise and you, our client.
Each headpiece is carefully handcrafted in the workroom in Wallingford. It is often being designed to complement a specific outfit. Of course, many ladies ask us to work with their dressmakers for that very special occasion.
"Hats are a great antidote to what's going on. It's really their purpose to put a happy face on a sad world." - Stephen Jones
“Without hats there is no civilisation” – Christian Dior
An interview with Louise Walton
AN EXCEPTIONAL MILLINER
What were you doing before?
I've always been passionate about fashion, and turned that interest into a vocation decades ago when I graduated from the London College of Fashion as a designer.
I predominantly worked on bespoke, one-off pieces, such as wedding dresses and evening gowns, but am also experienced at crafting suits and all types of daywear. Hats are naturally the focal point of an outfit, particularly if the occasion is special, and I found myself consistently trying to source hats that would work for the looks I was creating. This process got me interested in millinery in its own right; I was drawn to the niche and specific nature of hat-making, and the potential within it to pull together and complete a look that would otherwise seem unfinished.
When did the business officially launch?
The business was Launched on the 30th of October 2004, in premises which we had purchased the previous month. It’s a wonderful listed building, and has many of the original retained features.
Who are the key people behind the business and their roles?
I am the Milliner, and I work with the bespoke clients in person, from the consultations I produce the bespoke piece. As each bespoke headpiece is handmade I work in person with every client over a series of consultations to create a design that will both suit the person and outfit.
Husband Craig co director deals with Marketing, contracts etc, as well as working on the shop floor assisting customers.
Who are your usual customers?
I wouldn’t say we actually have a usual customer, it greatly depends on the individual requirement. They are not only locally based but come from around the country as well as abroad.
Have you had any famous customers?
We have supplied hats to a couple of actresses, along with some VIP’s who are, or their partners are receiving honours at the palace.
We also look after some of the diplomats and staff from embassies in London. It is our policy to never release our client list and we never publish a picture of any of the bespoke hats before the intended event and only then with the client’s permission.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
The inspiration comes in many forms. It may be idea I have had while watching the television, reading a magazine or out walking.
The bespoke service is as personal as we can make it, and always begins with a consultation with the customer. We'll look at the dress being worn, the occasion it is needed for, and go from there. We can even incorporate material from the dress if it is being made specially for the customer. We have longstanding relationships with local dressmakers. We of course have access to an incredible range of fabrics and accessories to add to client headpieces.
How do you make sure people choose the right hat to suit their face?
Only by having the outfit and the client trying on hats can we advise on what suits best. It is also dependent on the customers stature as well as the occasion they are attending.
How do people choose between a hat or a fascinator?
This is often dictated by the occasion, and the regulations governing that event. Some brides these days will request hats only, invitations for the palace usually state hats preferred. That is often the starting point. Otherwise it's down to personal preference, and really what is most suitable.
Which are your favourite events of the year to wear a hat to?
Any occasion that requires a hat is always a favourite for me, for Royal Ascot I make a bespoke piece for each day, Henley Royal Regatta I often wear the hats I wore for Ascot. Attending Livery Lunches in London sitting on the tube dressed up, and wearing a hat always gets the tourists attention.
The hat was specifically designed and made by Louise to match the Escada Dress, accessorised with Dior.
What plans do you have for the business for the year ahead?
In 2019 we began a really positive relationship with Olivia May and this has continued into 2020, despite the awful advent of Covid 19. 2020 is still being approached with renewed enthusiasm and vigour.
We are expanding our relationship with boutiques to make bespoke pieces for their photo shoots, and supply to their customers.
We continue to review our branding plans, with Magnacca & Associates. In 2021 we hope to increase the number of group party evenings we hold, this is where groups of ladies who are attending the same function come to the shop when its closed and help each other choose hats, with our guidance, along with a glass of bubbly.
What has been a particular highlight of the journey so far?
That's such a hard question! I've been lucky enough to have some really exciting experiences as the business has grown. I've loved being on Radio Berkshire and Radio Oxford. I was invited on as a guest to talk about hats and the millinery process pre-Ascot, and had so much fun. Equally as good was when I was asked to appear on BBC 1's Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is. I have now done the program with Jonty Heardon twice, and apparently its shown in Spain according to our window cleaner.
What’s your proudest work moment been?
I have to say, though, that the moments I value the most are when I see my customers happy, wearing their hats- especially when it's been a bespoke piece. You build up such a relationship as it's being made, and to know that they are satisfied and that you've helped make part of their event extra special means a lot to me. So hopefully these moments will continue.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Not so much advice, but I had the great pleasure in spending some time with Stephen Jones OBE, who is an iconic milliner, I gained a tremendous amount from our conversation. So you could call that advice, I also occasionally spend time with Dillon Wallwork another great milliner he shares valuable techniques and advice with me.
Just Wanted to say a massive thank you for my stunning peacock hat, it was a real headturner at Royal Ascot. An American gentlemen asked me for a picture and the contact details of the designer. So I obliged!Miss C.P.
Hi Louise, my mum loved her red hat at Regatta so much! She said it made her feel like a million dollars. So I’m sending you some pictures.