I didn’t have a burning desire to become a milliner from a young age - it came from an inherent love of design and colour, coupled with a realisation that there was a distinct lack of beautiful well-crafted headwear being made in the UK at the time.
Culturally, hats are the ultimate British symbol of elegance and occasion, and I like to think that my team and I, along with a handful of others, have played a part in getting British headwear back to where it should be. Vivien Sheriff is now an intentionally recognised luxury headwear brand. It has been a real journey to get where we are, with some truly testing times, but I feel incredibly fortunate nonetheless.
One of my passions is wild swimming. We live in the New Forest and I swim daily in the River Avon that runs at the bottom of our hill - and in all weathers, I should add! We have a great little crew and one of the girls usually brings soup (and sometimes rum!) on those super cold mornings.
Then a dog walk through the forest and off to the Vivien Sheriff studio, which is housed in converted farm buildings surrounded by the most wonderful views that are truly inspiring for the design process. We are a close team of six talented people. We have a morning meeting with the wonderful design team, a check-in with marketing or we catch up on the progress of a design partnership or collaboration.
We design and manufacture everything in our Wiltshire studio, including all of the dying and blocking, and we send pieces all over the world from our rural atelier.
It really depends from collection to collection, as each season will have a design narrative linking all the pieces together. For example, the SS23 collection is inspired by the process of ‘re-wilding’ taking inspiration from our surroundings. The pieces have been named after the flora and fauna that surround us, such as Thyme, Pimpernel, Sorrel, Teasel and Honeysuckle.
More generally, headwear is a perfect platform for creative expression. Hats are an irrepressible part of an outfit that are impossible to overlook. They elevate and make one stand tall, like heels for your head! To that end, hats present an unrivalled opportunity for creativity and expression.
More broadly, I think you can differentiate the inspiration into two camps - some of our bespoke high-fashion pieces commissioned for runway shows, or by Harrods for their windows, allow a free license in terms of inspirational creativity, where the design process is less restrained. When designing for weddings and the races, we focus on helping our customers become the most beautiful version of themselves and making a statement that they can feel confident in.
The then Duchess Of Cambridge chose a Vivien Sheriff headpiece for her first ever outing in a Royal capacity at Anglesey in Wales which launched Vivien Sheriff into the international arena. We are proud that we continue to make pieces for many members of the Royal family as well as celebrated actresses and musicians worldwide.
Also, when The Sunday Times credited Vivien Sheriff as the No. 1 Designer at the Royal Wedding in 2011, in terms of the number of commissions, that was a proud moment too.
What is your top advice for choosing and styling the perfect hat?
What you wear, how you move and who you meet - all tell a story. Think about how your hat will go with your stature, your face shape and your hairstyle. Combining headwear with some creative hairstyles can elevate you to new heights, so we’re excited to be collaborating with the wonderfully experienced team at the Daniel Galvin Hair Salon at Corinthia London. Simple things like hiding the headband of the hat or headpiece with some hair pinned back will make a huge difference and is easily achievable.
Also, be bold but be comfortable. Express yourself - it’s a rare opportunity to cut loose and wear something you usually wouldn’t wear but don’t sacrifice comfort at the altar of flamboyance. Like footwear, it can be a long day if the fit isn't right. We offer one-to-one remote video consultations, which opens a lot of opportunities for our customers to find their perfect hat, so try to meet the designers or stylists where possible (even if via FaceTime!).