New York native Heather Huey studied architecture at Fordham University and millinery at FIT before founding her namesake millinery brand. Huey has created runway designs for the fashion shows of designers Simon Spurr, Christian Siriano, and Siki Im, and her creations have appeared in W, Interview, Vogue Italia, V, Purple, and Harper’s Bazaar, among others.
What was your reaction to seeing your piece on the cover of W Magazine? Some designers wait their whole lives for a moment like that.
It was definitely a gratifying surprise. I knew months in advance that my headpiece made the magazine, but I had no idea it made the cover until closer to the issue’s release date. I can never be sure if any of my pieces make print until the magazine finally comes out so I can see for myself.
What is the process like when you are commissioned to do runway pieces, for example, with Thakoon? Do they tell you exactly what they are envisioning or are you allowed a lot of creative freedom?
The first meeting with the designer and/or the stylist is to introduce me to their upcoming collection. They show me the inspiration boards, including hat references they are considering, so I have enough details to create the mockups. These samples prove crucial visual aids in reconsidering, revising, and finalizing the product that best suits the brand.
Is there a designer you’d really like to work with?
There are many designer houses with whom I’d love the opportunity to collaborate: Yohji Yamamoto, Maison Martin Margiela, Comme des Garcons, Viktor & Rolfe, Chado Ralph Rucci, Ann Demeulemeester, Balenciaga, Hussein Chalayan, Gary Graham.
Do you enjoy designing for editorial over retail, or vice versa?
There’s a completely different mindset in designing for each. With retail, there is the financial satisfaction in people buying your product on a regular basis. With editorial, that coincides with designing for myself so there’s definitely a creative satisfaction that retail can’t match.
How does the design process differ for you, for editorial vs. retail? Do retail pieces evolve from editorial pieces?
Retail pieces are their own creature; practical, traditional and affordable. Editorial pieces are completely unpredictable from start to finish and the intense laborious process is reflected in the much higher price points.
How much time goes into making one of your hats? Are they all handmade?
Everything is handmade. The retail hats can take several hours while the editorial pieces can take up to months to realize.
What’s the average cost of a hat?
My retail hats range from $200-$350. My editorial headpieces vary considerably depending on the size and detail of the piece, so the prices range from a couple of hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars.
Where are they currently retailing?
My main retailer is The Hat Shop in New York. My online shop will open in January 2012 and offer limited edition pieces as well as a few classics.
Do you have a private client business? Who is that customer? Where is she wearing your hats?
My private clients are men and women who are confident in themselves and their sense of style. They are always looking for pieces that will draw attention for their uniqueness. It’s an investment.
What’s in store for the future of your company? Do you have plans to expand to other accessories?
I’m looking to find more retailers that can carry my editorial pieces to feed into that market. And I’m always experimenting outside of traditional millinery so it’ll be fun to see what I can come up with next.
Having graduated from Fordham with a degree in Architecture, do you ever look back and wish you were designing buildings instead?
No. I’m glad of the education because any visual training can only be to your advantage as a designer, but I’ve never looked back and wondered. It’s a good sign, I think.
What are some of your inspirations, other than architecture?
From the familiar- nature, insects, architecture, mythology, religious and cultural icons… I interpret those ideas into the abstract elements of design (like lines, shapes, textures, proportions). I think subtle familiarity draws viewers to my pieces.
Is there a stylist you particularly enjoyed working with?
I’ve been fortunate in the last few years to have had the opportunity to work with some amazing stylists like Karl Templer, Nicola Formichetti, Lori Goldstein, Ludivine Poiblanc, etc. But I have to admit that there are a few stylists that I have a more collaborative, hands-on relationship with, like Patti Wilson, Nicoletta Santoro, and David Vandewal.
Has there been a model/actress/cover girl you felt wore your hats best? Who would you love to see in one of your creations?
Lara Stone, Saskia de Brauw, Guinevere van Seenus, Karlie Kloss, Anais Pouliot, and Kristen McMenamy all looked great in my pieces. I’d love to see my creations on Stella Tennant, Natalia Vodianova, Du Juan, Fei Fei Sun, Shu Pei, Liu Wen, Gemma Ward, Daria Werbowy, Lindsey Wixson, and Kate Moss.
Who have been some of your biggest influences in millinery?
Well, I’ve always been an admirer of Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones, because as a milliner who wouldn’t be? But strangely enough, as soon as I started studying millinery, I lost interest in following what other milliners were doing because I was just too focused on what I wanted to do. One of my earlier “muses” was (and is) my good friend, stylist Kenny Ho. He always challenged me with taking what I do and pushing it further.
Do you have a favorite hat you’ve designed? What did it look like?
My favorites are always changing because I’m always evolving. Admittedly, it is usually a black hat as I favor that color above any other.