When I first saw the cut and colours of Anastasia Caples’ work I was drawn in. I love the angles that she creates and brings felt into the modern day while still keeping the traditional feel of a felt creation. It is no wonder that her wonderful pieces have her listed as a finalist in the upcoming Irish Fashion Innovation Awards. And I am delighted to be featuring her today on Floralesque.
Have you always had an interest in fashion and design?
I have certainly always had an interest in making and wanting to know how things were made from an early age. My Granny taught me how to sew when I was quite young and in fact showed me how to make my first hat, a beret, by cutting up an old wool jumper and using a dinner plate as a template. She had a great sense of style and was always making and altering clothes so it seemed natural for me to alter clothes to suit my own taste as well. In secondary school, I was really fortunate to have an excellent art teacher whose speciality was in textiles. This just continued to open my mind to the possibilities that working with fabric held and I entered Art College thinking I wanted to specialise in fashion.
I believe that you have studied from Dublin to Helsinki! Can you please tell us a little about your path into millinery?
Yes, I was lucky enough to study Textile design under some excellent tutors in the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and then was fortunate to get an Erasmus placement at the UIAH Helsinki. As I mentioned, I entered Art College thinking I wanted to study Fashion but when the time came to specialise, I found that the range of options for experimenting with different media in the textile department more interesting.
My experience in Helsinki was a real benefit too, as it made me more aware of the beautiful, clear, Scandinavian design aesthetic and how there can be a real beauty in the simplicity of design. On leaving college, I had a varied career, working in freelance design, textile wholesale and teaching and the renovation of our home. It was quite a number of years before I decided to grasp the opportunity to do a short course in blocking felt hats at The Lina Stein School of Millinery in West port. This was something that I had wanted to learn for such a long time and I found Lina Stein to be an inspiring teacher.
The cut and design of your hats are both elegant and chic – what (or who) do you find your inspiration from?
I love experimenting with combinations of materials and seeing how they can take shape together probably more than sitting down to design on paper. It is very exciting to be looking at the wooden block before you shape a hat as the possibilities are endless and sometimes the feel of the materials in my hand will dictate how a design takes shape. I also really love a good hardware store as I am usually looking at interesting metal fittings and other materials thinking how I can use them for hats. Sometimes, I can come to a hat with lots of ideas but then pare it back as I see it taking shape.
Felt is such a stunning textile to work with – what drew you to this?
It’s funny but I think I had a notion somewhere in the back of my head that a ‘proper’ hat was made from felt and I was fascinated to know the process behind making one. The first time I blocked a felt hat, I knew I was hooked. To block a felt hats you are steaming the felt and pulling it over a wooden mould or block and the felt is almost as pliable as clay. The possibilities for sculpting and layering the material seem endless and that what drew me to it.
What is your favourite part of the design process?
I think it has to be the blocking stage because I can see the hat taking form in front of me. It is very satisfying you see the overall shape of the hat after the blocking process and then to finish it off as suits that hat.
I am sure that starting our own business has its challenges, would you have any advice to aspiring milliners?
My advice would be to firstly learn from a reputable teacher if you can and then experiment to find the style of working that suits you. I do think you need to be true to your own style too and make work that you believe in rather than necessarily following trends all the time. Enjoy the making and focus on good design and finish but be conscious of your costings and conducting good market research before taking the plunge. Millinery can be solitary work a lot of the time so I think it is helpful to make an effort to meet other designers and makers whenever you can too.
Although I am sure hard to choose, what has been your proudest brand moment to date?
I still find it a little difficult to think of my business as a ‘brand ‘ but I suppose that is what it is. As my business is quite new, I have been very focused on the design and making of my hats and I am very proud of what I have achieved to date in my work. It was very gratifying to receive recognition for my work in the form of The Fashion Fest Bursary 2016 that was awarded by the Derry City and Strabane District Council. And now to be nominated next to three other really marvellous Milliners at the upcoming Irish Fashion Innovation Awards is very exciting.
Do you think there’s such a thing as a “hat person?”
In my mind, there are definitely people who love wearing hats and I would see those as ‘hat people’. So many people have approached me saying ‘Oh, I love hats but they don’t suit me.’ I honestly believe there is a hat for everybody. It is just a matter of trying lots of different styles to find the one that suits you. I do think
confidence has a big part to play in wearing hats so if you can feel comfortable and happy in your choice of hat, you should not have a problem.
How can people purchase a Anastasia Caples design?
Currently, I sell through the Donegal Designer Makers shop in Ardara, Co.Donegal which is run by a collective of fourteen designers and makers from within the county. Anyone, wishing to have a hat commissioned can contact me through my website at email@example.com.
What does the future hold for Anastasia Caples?
Well, I hope to continue enjoying my work while expanding my range and perhaps bringing my hats to retail elsewhere around the country.
A massive thank you to Anastasia for the interview – I loved learning more about her work and the inspiration behind her pieces. You can check out more of her work on her website and she is also on Twitter and Facebook. I cannot wait to see them on the catwalk tomorrow!
If you enjoyed this interview in the ‘Floralesque Meets’ Series, then you can click here to read more exciting interviews with designers, creators, artists, photographers, entrepreneurs and more – enjoy meeting the makers!
All images kindly provided by Anastasia for use.